“I thought it would be a good idea,” my mother’s pastor explained to me today.
We were talking about her congregation’s newest offering: a weekly online social hour.
This little rural church sits on top of a bit of hill with an alfalfa hay field currently buried under snow to its west, a few corn stalks left in the fields surrounding it on the east and north, and a few trees tucking up from the south. For almost 200 years, parishioners have lived close to the land in this area. The church serves as a home base for its members. Worship services are important, no doubt—but so is coffee hour and the traditional Sunday lunch at the Swedish pancake house a quick seven-minute drive away.
There’s a whole lot of living that happens during those weekly get-togethers.
Except that now, with COVID, it’s stopped.
Yet again, the now ubiquitous Zoom meeting option takes center stage. Recognizing the increasing isolation her aging membership faces as the pandemic lingers on, the pastor arranged this online connection opportunity for every Sunday at 4 PM. It’s purely social (although I imagine the conversation will vary off into church business every so often).
This coming Sunday’s weather for their area predicts wind chills of -30F (-34C). The Midwest and Northern Plains residents will rightly and proudly tell you that they are made of hardy stock. But staunch and weather-resistant they may be, -30 is brutal.
Happily, for this little group of folks, there is no need to bundle up and brave the cold. Thanks to the COVID planning, the worship service and an expanded coffee hour can both be enjoyed from the warm comfort of their own homes. It’s not the same, and the community misses the real-life interactions. But this option is a small silver lining when Old Man Winter shows his nastiest self!