Pastor David’s Update
In early February, the members of Congregation Council and team leaders attended a planning retreat at Camp Mar Lou Ridge. The fruits of that retreat are the huge calendars which hang on the wall in the large church office. For the first time in ages, things were in place for worship, meetings, dinners, and events right through the end of December. Then you know what happened- the Corona virus basically appeared as a huge STOP sign, calling into question who and what Trinity should be as a congregation.
I participate in a Zoom call every Wednesday. The pastors of the Washington County Conference of the Delaware-Maryland Synod meet to talk about what is going on in their congregations and personal lives. It has been interesting over the past few months to hear how other churches have met the challenge of trying to hold things together in these challenging times, which, until just recently, precluded the possibility of worshiping together as a corporate body.
I am proud to say that Trinity is in the vanguard of making farsighted decisions which have not only made us all feel we are alive and well, but have offered a glimpse of what the future might hold for us. This was not easy. The range of options included shutting the church down. Your staff—David, Greg, Andy, and Rich—thought about all this, and decided that, instead of giving our congregants much less, we should “double down”, and make daily contact with our members and others interested in the life of LTC. So began Rich’s morning TLC message, which includes humor and links to choral music. Occasionally Rich, our administrator slips in something of personal interest to him (and maybe others). Guess what it is? He’s a railroad aficionado, and so we see pictures of locomotives and interesting places where trains run.
Two-hundred seventy people receive the morning letter via e-mail. Almost 260 receive the evening email with a more pastoral article in it. A range of people write these articles. For me, writing these has been interesting, since I am able to cover a multitude of topics which would not be possible in a monthly newsletter. Those who do not have email receive physical copies of the previous week’s items via snail mail. That number is around twenty. Our audience is far flung. Former members of Trinity who live in Australia read about us. So do some friends of Rich who live in England, as do my husband and family and friends in El Salvador. Can you guess how mail emails and physical copies of these have been sent since the pandemic began? It deserves to be in big numerals:
In addition to these contacts, your pastors have been making lots of phone calls. Most teams have met at least once during the pandemic, sometimes via Zoom, at other times informally in the hallway, occasionally meeting face-to-face and practicing social distancing in the larger areas of the building such as the parlor. I was going to say “spaced out” but that has another connotation! Perhaps the record goes to the Worship and Music Team, whose members were together every time a service was held and/or recorded. The Property Team tackled some major issues, like a leak around one of the stained-glass windows in the nave. Social Ministry continued up through the end of the school year to pack bags for children via Micah’s Backpack. Others have been meeting regularly to tackle the concerns of the food and clothing banks. Since we could not safely operate either, tons of food were taken to other places where people in need can go and benefit from it. The team is now thinking about how these important ministries can continue when things quiet down. Meantime, the bills continue to be paid. The offices are open (with restrictions) every weekday. Ricky continues to keep everything clean and in good order. Council and its Executive Team meet by Zoom regularly. There is even a “tailgate” party at the Dutch Market on Friday morning- coffee and donuts to be sure.
As soon as it became obvious corporate worship was out, a group of people explored the possibility of broadcasting our worship services. Neophytes all, we bought equipment, learned how to use it, even facing the challenges of our aging sound system and the awesome but daunting acoustics of our worship space, and became familiar with the dynamics of uploading big files to social media. A special word of thanks goes to Maggie Stone for all her work doing this. We continue to improve weekly as we try new things. Guess how many worship services have been broadcast? Again—big numerals:
Each service required at least eight people to preside, play music, sing, record, prepare communion elements, etc. What an effort went into making the services available this way!
While some sense of normalcy has returned, because we have had corporate worship now for three weeks, people talk about the new normal. I think the use of social media will be crucial for our future. There are lots of reasons for this, but primary among these are the fact that more people attend church via the internet than in person. Shocking, isn’t it! How Trinity becomes part of this is our challenge. If we do, our impact can reach far beyond our corner of the world in Hagerstown. We have been deficient in one area—Bible study. This is being addressed and should become a regular feature of our presence online. Soon you will read about Segment 3 of our process of discerning our Vision and Mission. Hopefully, you will choose to be part of a course which will help us figure out how to be a 21st century church.
I wish to highlight one area of ministry wherein I feel all the work mentioned above has paid off. While many churches are facing severe financial challenges because corporate worship ended so abruptly, and people are not at church to put their envelopes in the traditional gold plate, Trinity has actually seen an uptick in our weekly offerings. I think that is remarkable! But why this has happened is no mystery. We didn’t shut down. Given new challenges, we rose to the occasion by being innovative and fresh in our approach. That was a clear decision on the part of your staff, a decision that few other churches made. The uptick in giving was a direct result of our decision to do something new. Please remember that, as there are other things we can do to strengthen and grow our Loving Community- stay tuned! Bishop Bill Gohl writes a weekly article and always includes the phrase, “the church is alive!” Because of how we have all chosen to be as a community of love and communication, Trinity as a community of faith is alive and well. We miss seeing people together, united in worship, and at meetings and sharing food together—but, by God’s help, we are still Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. And we will be Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church as the future unfolds for us.