The years 2020 and 2021 will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic’s forcing churches, including FPC, to close their doors and “create space” in new ways to extend hospitality, worship, welcome visitors and participate in communion while being apart.
Fortunately, FPC adapted and now offers in-person worship service and worship over a YouTube page, using digital media in new, engaging ways.
Ways to “create space” for hospitality and conversations as a congregation was the theme of the January Leader’s Retreat at FPC. Pastor Bobby used the occasion to highlight how we have created that space, and he outlined a plan for 2022to expand on those efforts.
He mentioned several ways FPC has pivoted in creating space during the pandemic:
- Our digital presence as a welcoming, worshiping church is significant, whether people now join us in worship virtually or in person. Our web page is a virtual “front door” to our church.
- The Gathering Place, created while we were apart with funds raised within just a month, is a space that welcomes and offers us and our visitors hospitality.
- “Porch Pals,” conceived while ourdoors were closed, saw members opening their yards and patios for two series of weekly get-togethers.
- The ReSounding Voices Choir, Car Choir and First Bells all have became innovative and provided virtual experiences as part of our Music Ministry.
- After repairs to major damage caused by the February 2021 ice storm, a church open house welcomed us back to our church.
- Our engagement with and hospitality for homeless people who come to our church door needing help hasbeen greatly expanded, and we now offer more than grocery gift cards to fit needs.
- Youth and LOGOS adapted and continued to find ways to enjoy hospitality, either virtually or live.
- A committee is looking at whether we want to become known as a Matthew 25 church.
- Six from FPC began a nine-month journey looking at research on how churches engage and keep young adults in their ministry, and how we as a congregation are doing on commitments that keep teenagers and young adults coming back toour church.
Step-by-Step in 2022
Pastor Bobby and elders plan to go further in 2022 to look at how we can continue to create space for our church’s hospitality and ministry. As he explains, both elders and the congregation will engage in a series of “Step-by-Step” discussions and meals during which we will take a step, listen and take another step.
“In recent months, the session discussed several challenges and opportunities,” Bobby explained. “With the beginning of a new year, it seems like a good time to look at what our priorities should be. It is a good time to make sure that the congregation is invited to share their sense of what God is up to in our midst. A time to ask some hard questions: How is God leading us? Where is God at work among us? At work in our community? How might we partner with God and others in this work?”
Elders to meet in groups
Bobby is planning a series of meetings in 2022 with elders in small groups for “more focused conversation and prayer around the big issues and hopes that we have for our congregation.” He thinks the process could prove fruitful, “trusting that, even though we don’t know quite where the Holy Spirit will take us, we are confident that Jesus will be faithful as we gather.”
Elders have been divided into three groups of six each and will meet with Bobby for hour-long “big picture discussions” about the church and where God is leading us. Each elder will meet with their group three times before the end of the year. In August, the three groups plan to meet together to process what they have been discussing.
To get input from church members, several congregation-wide luncheons, “Step-by-Step” meals, have been planned—on the fourth Sunday of February, March, May and June immediately following the 11 o’clock service.
Bobby explained, “Step-by-Step meals recognize that our call is not to know the next dozen steps God has for us. We can simply take the next step. Listen. Then step again.” A mentor to Pastor Bobby used to remind him frequently that the Bible says, “‘ Thy Word is a Light unto my feet’, not a tractor beam unto my path.”