Ministry is often tiring, but especially this summer, we are exhausted. After the emotional whiplash of spring, we all need a break. The goal of our student ministry during this “Corona Summer” is healing; we are keeping it casual and social.
When our state began to allow in-person gatherings of up to 10 people, we encouraged students to meet in natural social groups, small groups of six to eight. Our summer gatherings are student-driven, all masked and safely distanced, outdoors, and informal.
As one of our mission t-shirts says, “The Church has left the building.” The youth rooms of this season are driveways, parking lots, backyards, and parks. New drivers park in circles and sit in their vehicle trunks to visit. Bike and canoe outings allow safe distancing, but shared experiences. The hammocks graduating seniors received as gifts from the congregation are being used to gather in a local park. The church porch is a popular spot to gather in spaced lawn chairs with protection from rainstorms and sun.
Pizza and potlucks are on hold. Instead, bring-your-own picnics pop up in park shelters and backyards. Drive-thrus at local restaurants are hopping with our youth, who then deliver favorite coffee drinks or burgers to those who can’t or won’t emerge from the safety of their personal social circles.
We are careful not to spread germs, but to only share thoughts and laughter, smiling at each other from behind masks of various designs. Some days, the tears flow as freely as the hand sanitizer.
Unfortunately, our county's virus numbers are rising again, so we are pulling back on any in-person gatherings for the immediate future. We will continue to follow state and county guidelines and pay close attention to the local school district's suggestions. The church has assembled a COVID-19 Team made up of key ministry leaders, local health professionals, teachers, and administrators, who are making decisions about how to safely do ministry during this time.
We miss seeing each other in person but are committed to keeping our community as healthy as possible. That responsibility requires some sacrifices. We find that in faith and love, it is important to be leaders and role models with bold actions, following the example of Jesus. God shows up in these holy days, bridging the gaps left by the fear, frustration, and loss.