Even though Church Council meeting minutes and Ministry Team reports are public documents that can be read by any church member who would like to read them (we store them on a shared google doc drive), I don't usually share my Church Council report on blogs or public spaces. Not because I have anything to hide, but my guess is that it isn't exciting reading for anyone pressed for time in our busy and chaotic world. But since we are not gathering in person together for the time being, and the foreseeable future, I thought I would share a kind of "state of the union" for our community of faith. So here's my Church Council Pastor's Report from 9/14/2020, edited to be a little more of a narrative flow. If you have any questions or ideas about how our community of faith can continue to stay vibrant and focused in our vision and mission as disciples of Jesus, especially in this time of social distancing, please feel free to contact me.
Monday Morning Local Clergy Zooms
Each Monday I continue to gather with 15 to 20 local clergy and local health officials from our surrounding community. We started this way back in March to group think and work together in how we would respond to the pandemic as we wrestled with when and how to close our doors for public gatherings. I cannot express how helpful and encouraging these meetings are. Each week a UNC health official, Dr. Wes Wallace, shares with us what COVID-19 numbers look like nationally, for North Carolina, and our county. As of right now numbers are trending downwards, of course except for college campuses and university towns that continue to hold in person classes or have students gathered in dorms and Greek/shared houses. While numbers are trending downward we know this pandemic is far from over and we are asking with the rest of the world, “what will happen this winter?” A lot will depend on the creation of a safe vaccine. Experts continue to urge us to be patient and to keep doing what we have been doing with social distancing and wearing masks because this virus, and it's impact, will most likely last well into 2021. With "political rhetoric vs. science" at an all time high, it is now more important than ever that we work hard in how we communicate with one another while striving even harder to be good stewards of our bodies, our community, and the God given gifts we have been given.
Our clergy group discussions and relationships have evolved and grown over the last 6 months, of course discussing when and how we can gather for worship in our own buildings, but also discussing how we can work together on the important issues of social and racial justice. Over the summer we recorded our conversation on "confronting racism" ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtoVWMPBc_Ls964gwBHJ4wg ) and now we are working toward supporting a “service learning center” to help marginalized youth with online education. I'm hopeful that Holy Trinity can support this both financially and with volunteer hours.
Our Online Ministry Presence and Activity:
We are zoom, zoom, zooming and even more zooming, like the rest of the world. While I deeply long for us to be together in person, I am proud of our staff and congregation with how we continue to find creative ways to engage with one another and continue to grow in our mission of Loving God and Loving Neighbor.
I just preached a sermon on how I'm not that great at math but here are some interesting numbers...
We currently have 294 YouTube subscribers (can we get to 300?!?)
We start each live-stream worship with around "20 eyes", the service then gets into the upper 80s when we read scripture, we then get into the upper 90s during the sermon and hymn of the day, and then back down to the upper 80s at the benediction. By the end of each week we usually have around "200 views" on YouTube. I think those are pretty good numbers seeing that we average around 225 in-person worshipers each Sunday in the "before COVID times". If you take into account that we usually have more than one person watching one devise at our live-streams we are right at our average worship "attendance" if not a little higher each Sunday. We continue to see members, family of members, and friends engage with our social media accounts as well (you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). So keep "liking" and "sharing" our content to let people know what we are up to and to hear a message of grace and hope that are so important for our world to hear right now.
We have the technology and equipment to continue online-streaming our worship services even when we gather back together for in-person worship in our Worship Center.
Our program and pastoral staff continue to work mostly from home using zoom for staff meetings, ministry team meetings, bible and book studies, Sunday School, choir meet ups and rehearsals, and Lutheran Campus Ministry. If you need to get a hold of any of our staff please see the directory and worship bulletin for our email address and cell phone numbers.
With health experts predicting it will be a rough winter with the virus we will need to be prepared with the reality of online streaming our worship services through the winter and even online streaming for Advent and Christmas Eve. We are thinking through creative ways to do Advent and Christmas in small groups and online.
Creative Ministry in the era of a Pandemic:
While still in phase one of our “regathering plan”, and the State in 2.5 of regathering, the HTLC staff continue to find creative ways to do ministry together while we are separated. We still plan to stay one phase behind North Carolina in the process while also taking advice from our Synodical Bishop and staff. Our "regathering policies and plan" is on our website.
Here are some of the ministries that we have been doing...
Drive-Up Holy Communion: We have been doing this for 5 months (including Easter Sunday) and we plan to keep doing this once a month in the months to come. We average around 90 members (and some Lutheran Campus Ministry students) coming to receive Holy Communion. It is great to see your faces and to speak with you even if its just for a few moments. For those who haven't attended a "drive up communion" I am curious to know why? No judgement at all, just wondering if its safety or piety or a time issue. I am willing to make porch and driveway visits with Holy Communion if that is something you would rather prefer.
Youth Outdoor Movie Night
Outside coffee visits and porch visits
Phone calling and face-timing people before and after Hospital procedures
Here are some other ideas we are working on...
All Saint’s Sunday Prayer-Walk through our Worship Center (All Saint's Sunday, November 1st falls on a Sunday this year)
Drive Up Pet Blessing for the Feast Day of St. Francis
Outdoor Beer and Hymns "sing and hum to ourselves fest"
Flu Shot Clinic
Outdoor Ecumenical Franklin St. Churches Christmas Caroling
Ministry Team Updates:
How are our Ministry Teams doing? We do so much “at church” it is hard to wrap our head and hearts around doing things separated from one another. While we can not be together as much as we would like we can still find opportunities to build relationships and community. Some ministry teams are still gathering and pondering ministry and some are on hold until we can gather again in person. The 2021 Budget planning process is under way so our Ministry Teams and Church Council liaisons are meeting to discern the best way we can be good stewards and move forward with the ministry of the gospel we have been called to. Our vision and mission is to be a well balanced and healthy congregation in our four core values of Worship, Campus Ministry, Faith Formation and Outreach. While we have a top notch staff we can not do "all this" alone, we need strong lay members and leaders to help us do all that God is calling us to do.
We have a newly formed ministry teams called, the Racial Justice Ministry Team. This is a new ministry team for Holy Trinity. Rising out of the events of this past summer and the ongoing struggle and tension for racial justice, this team will discern how to engage our congregation with ongoing work of anti-racism and social justice.
Worship and Arts, Faith Formation, Outreach, and Finance continue to meet and plan.
I called Member Care together to check in and to jump start our work after not meeting over the summer.
Church and Family Life are on hold at the moment.
I plan to call together Stewardship and Welcome and Visibility this week to think through this fall season.
The Stewardship, Welcome and Visibility, and Member Care ministry teams are in need of a lay member chairperson.
The Stewardship Ministry Team is gathering soon to plan for our Fall Stewardship Campaign. What should our theme be? "Zooming into 2021"? "Physically separated but Spiritually connected"? or "Funding for the Apocalypse"? (and of course by apocalypse we mean the strict meaning of the Greek word "to reveal")
Keep a lookout for a congregational stewardship letter and a 2021 pledge card.
Discipleship and Faith in an age of political and social unrest:
I continue to reflect and wrestle with the political divisiveness and racial and social unrest in our country. Please vote, please stand up for what you believe in and for the dignity of all human beings, and allow your faith in God to shape all of your relationships. While I do believe in the separation of church and state we are not "apolitical" beings. "Politics" is a word rooted in how we do "common life together". Continue to reflect upon and pray how we do "common life together" within our community of faith and beyond our walls. I challenge you now and when we get closer to November to reflect how you treat those who have different political views than you in person or on social media. How does your discipleship of following Jesus impact how you treat others, how you vote, and how we posture ourselves online? I can't answer these questions for you, but I would be happy to reflect on them with you in a conversation rooted in love and care for all people.
I continue to pray for all of you daily. In the midst of all that is going on in our world I continue to lean hard on the grace and love of God, and the gift of the community of faith. We don't do this thing called faith alone. Relationships and building community are hard in "normal" times, and yet I fully believe that hard and challenging times push us to grow deeper and to wake up to the opportunities in front of us. You are not alone, you are loved... by me, by community of faith, and ultimately by the Triune God by which our church is named.