Deepening Connections Virtually in Times of Uncertainty

Mar 12, 2020 1:56:47 PM / by Elizabeth Hood

Things are being canceled—free time I didn’t know I would have allows me to slow down a bit.

Work schedules are adjusted—I found myself grocery shopping midday yesterday and bumping into three of my neighbors. All of us were working from home, so we stopped to chat for a while outside. We talked about having lunch outside together since we are all home, for the first time ever!

More time online because I’m at home alone—I wound up reaching out to friends online and making deep connections with people in moments of anxiety and fear.

Community put on hold—I had to find creative and innovative was to connect online and provide virtual space for people.

Last night, we canceled our Wednesday evening programming: soup supper, evening prayer, confirmation, and youth group. In 13 years of ministry I don’t think I’ve ever canceled youth group unless I was out of town and couldn’t find a sub. So I announced I would be holding it virtually. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I didn’t want to let the high school youth down. So I scheduled a zoom meeting for 7 p.m. and invited them.

Would anyone show up? No comfy couches, no food in the youth room?

At 7 p.m. I opened the video link and saw three faces staring back at me. As minutes passed and we tried to figure out how this would work, another face appeared, then another. Siblings gathered around their screens to be present for youth group. We started with a check-in as always, high and lows and how this virus is affecting you. They spoke about cancellation after cancellation that made life difficult. I shared that it’s hard for me too.

We always have ice cream during youth group. One youth got up and started eating ice cream; as we watched, I said, “That looks good—sorry we aren’t in the youth room to have ice cream together!” Another youth got up for ice cream, then another, and then I remembered that I had ice cream too. So we sat in front of our computers, ate our ice cream, and had youth group together in a way I had never imagined, and it was beautiful.

We thought we only had 40 minutes on the free video call, but just before our time expired a pop-up appeared on all our screens saying we had unlimited time! We cheered. I had planned on 40 minutes, but we stayed for an hour and a half. We closed our time in prayer, and, as always, went around the room/screen, allowing everyone a chance to pray. We prayed for housing- and food-insecure people; we prayed for the elderly; we prayed for high school youth who are struggling. I told them not to be afraid, to be safe, and to wash their hands! Then we giggled and I said goodbye; we waved, and I hit the button to end the video.

We are being pushed and shaped into something new, different and perhaps even more beautiful! This virus is terrible and scary, and it is important to weep with those who weep as this new disease claims lives. Yet there is beauty even in times of fear, and we can appreciate the innovation and connection that we are finding even as we mourn losses in our communities and across the world.

Come Holy Spirit, come.

Topics: General Ministry, Youth Ministry

Elizabeth Hood

Written by Elizabeth Hood

Elizabeth has served her congregation in California as the Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministry for over 10 years. She loves camping and traveling around the world. She grew up in Hawai’i and is an alumna of Pacific Lutheran University. She also leads the Hospitality Team for the Extravaganza and serves on the planning team for the Western States Youth Gathering.


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