Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Marijke Fakasiieiki, The Fig Tree's development director, surveyed rural congregations in the region and gathered stories for this summer issue on the impact of COVID and vaccinations on their ministries.
Pastor shifted ministry sending letters by 'snail mail'
Lynn Nelson, pastor of Affirmational United Church of Christ in Colfax, said that because members lacked "fancy cell phones" going online was not a practical option. So when COVID shut the church down, they did church by "snail mail."
She started mailing a letter with words to two familiar hymns, comments that she called "letter babble" and a worship sheet with prayers, scripture and her sermon.
By "letter babble" she means she shares her thoughts about what is happening in the world and her life.
"Sometimes I've shared my thoughts on days I'm spiritually down," Lynn said. "Often those are the ones I have the most reactions to, because people can identify."
Lynn found she was touching bases with more people than before. At the eye doctor's office, she saw a non-church-going parishioner who said, "Oh, I just read your letter."
The letter goes to 61 people in four states, and she will "never not write it again, because I reach members who are not able to come to church or just don't come to church."
In the small, older church, little may seem to be happening, but if there is a need in the community the church would help.
"The people in Colfax are weathering COVID well," Lynn said. "We are a small community with close connections and family around."
Lynn herself has roots in Colfax and when the church needed a pastor she stepped in as a lay person and worked to be ordained in the United Church of Christ.
"We're a small rural community and look out for each other," she said.
AA stopped meeting in the building for a while, but they are back.
The church has donated food to the local food bank and donated items for the domestic violence shelter.
With many older members, Lynn guessed a good percentage were vaccinated. She knows of only one 90-year-old woman in the church who died of COVID.
"I haven't heard anybody in congregation speak against it," Lynn said. "I would think the town would run positive, too, but some may be against it.
Meeting in May with the moderator, they shared that nobody seemed to be in a rush to go back, but as they have learned about more being vaccinated, they have decided to open to in person worship on June 13.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021