Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Pastors reflect on the impact of COVID
In responding to a recent survey The Fig Tree did on COVID impacts, pastors around the region shared some of what they have learned in these times.
In COVID, we discovered new tools and people we haven't been reaching. It has made us open ourselves up. This congregation already had a wide-open heart. It was not a closed, cliquish group, but COVID pushed us further. We learned there were things that weren't working.
This is an opportunity for the church to get beyond itself. Sometimes we have to be pushed. Some said, "this is a disaster." God said, "I can use this, we can use this." That is the way it often works. I will urge my people to move out of a rut.
Trinity Lutheran, Pullman
God has always been active. God didn't take time off for COVID. It has been gratifying to see how God has been working through the pandemic. Our people and the whole community are coming together to have what they need.
Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Othello
It's made us aware of a sense of our responsibility for the health of the community. We don't live in silos, in terms of COVID or vaccinations.
Our actions are not just about our own health, but about the health of others.
Fr. Michael Savalesky
Holy Rosary Parish, Rosalia , Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. John
As far as spiritual growth, one of the things our congregation has learned in COVID is that we are never alone. God never leaves us alone as a community.
There is always a way for us to grow together. Many folks couldn't see how they could worship using livestreaming. Now we know we don't have to be in the building for spiritual growth.
Our outreach reminds us that the needs of the community are outside the building, and we don't always need the building. Given the outreach needed, we need to figure out how to do that outside our building. We don't need the building.
We need to remember that the church is going to change. We don't know what it's going to look like. We can pivot and learn new ways of doing things. It might be strange to begin with, but we don't do this alone. We do it with the Spirit.
We can pivot, change, and walk through storms together. We can do it and we will be ok.
Pioneer UMC, Walla Walla
I've really appreciated just how deep the roots of our faith are in experiences of upheaval, catastrophe and tremendous challenges. All the testimonies of the Bible come from people in challenging times relying ever more deeply on their experience of how God is there in that.
Our church community has weathered depressions, world wars and pandemics before. We have a history of resilience. Elder congregeants who experienced World War II know we will get through this together. It's just another thing to weather. We will be ok. They offer a sense of tried and true wisdom that I've appreciated. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. We just keep moving.
People come together to care for each other when times are tough.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Walla Walla
The dynamics of families have changed during COVID. Families are doing more together, communicating better, helping spiritually, worshipping together at home at the dining table or in the living room. We have shared spirituality in a way that was not happening before COVID."
Zion Lutheran, Davenport, Christ Lutheran, Egypt
Many have reflected on how we'd like to go back to "the way things were." It's hard for a leader to remind people that we can't do that. The world has changed. We need to be other focused, to love our neighbors as our very own selves.
It's harder for some than others to think of putting other people in front of ourselves and putting ourselves into other's shoes. We are neighbors. We need to be there for each other. We wear masks because we love our neighbors. We do this because we want to help each other out.
St. Paul Lutheran, Colville
Some of the silver linings in COVID are the folks who have hung in there with us. It shows us that God does provide, that our roots are deep and that we can withstand these challenges.
We did nothing online before this hit. Within four days we were online. We can reach some members who for one reason or another can't come to church. For those who can come to church, we reached families of people who wanted to join online, reconnecting with many folks. Now we know there is a different way to do church.
We have talked about what it means to be a gathered community of Christ, to celebrate communion and how to do that in a theologically appropriate way when we can't meet together.
Conversations are important about doing outreach. Being together in a meaningful way is important to who we are as a church and to do that when we can't gather. We are pretty inventive when we have to be. God seems to provide a way."
Emmanuel Lutheran, Cheney , ELM Campus Ministry
There has been some good to come out of this as we pare back and realize church doesn't have to be about business and programs, but reflect the heart of who we are as people of faith. The care we have shown one another matters, and the community pulls us together. We are finding God's grace. When hard times come, we pare back and remember what matters.
American Lutheran, Newport
The pandemic has provided an opportunity for people to slow down and reflect, and to think about what their priorities are in their life.
Spiritual practices are part of those priorities. In my congregation, some people have taken advantage of that.
The level of their engagement is heightened. The spiritual path has been heightened by the pandemic. In a general sense it almost has served as a year-long sabbath. Some folks have been able to find a richness in the forced pause in their lives, giving them opportunities to continue their spiritual search.
Sometimes the church emphasizes the journey outward and engagement. The pandemic established and reconnected us with our roots, a good root system from a spiritual perspective. We are not human doings, but human beings. Spiritual activism that forgets to grow its roots is pretty short lived. From my perspective as a pastor, the pandemic offers the opportunity to focus on the journey inward, which we often neglect."
Steve van Kuiken
Community Congregational UCC, Pullman
We have a stronger online presence and are continuing that. In feedback, people say they feel closer to the church because of the online choices. The pandemic took us out of our comfort zones to use technology.
We have had a larger focus on in-home spirituality, that the pandemic pushed us to. I have been preaching and teaching that church is about care for self, care for family, care for neighbor and that church is more than just Sunday morning worship as the center piece. How we take care of ourselves and others spiritually supports our communal life.
Wilbur Community Church
For spiritual growth, I learned to bake sourdough bread because I couldn't buy any yeast. Personally, I did things I didn't think I would ever do in my life, like sending sermons to parishioners. I thought people needed to be there to hear it. A sermon offers spiritual growth, so it's about reaching out to people to make a connection. I had to learn technology. We have all learned hybrid worship. I think that the good thing that will come from this is that we will be able to be connected with people that would never walk through the doorway of the church.
Trinity Episcopal Oroville, Tonasket Community UCC
Relationship is clearly number one. People miss it terribly. That is true between family members in the same home, between friends and at workplaces, but just as much in church. We've had no gatherings.
In church, relationship is a vital part of the congregation. It helps us to be healthier and stronger together, stronger in faith. It's the reason to come. When the relationship tie is disrupted, it's not as easy to be Christian, to love or feel the love as much.
Redeemer Lutheran, Dayton, Pomeroy Congregation
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021