Pastors are having to use more than their rod and staff, or even pulpit, to shepherd their flocks during the corona virus pandemic.
Many pastors of area churches have opted to have virtual worship services through UTube, livestreaming, Zoom or other technology, to connect with their congregations in the comfort of their homes.
One Cumberland pastor opted for another approach on Sunday, March 22. Pastor John Miels of St. Paul Lutheran Church on Hwy. 48 ordered an FM transmitter the size of a cell phone with an antennae on it.
He then picked an FM station that seemed to come in the clearest, which was 89.5, and tried it out. The sound carried well for 200 feet, which was enough for his members to gather in the church parking lot and stay in the comfort of their warm vehicles with their radios tuned to the frequency.
Word was sent out that the service was on, and 89 people in 41 vehicles showed up for the drive-in service. Each was given a bulletin to follow along, and the service began.
By hooking his microphone up to a compact disc, the service began with music, and they could sing along if they wished. Together, but apart, they recited the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed.
Then came the sermon. The pastor joked that they could honk their horns if it was getting too long, but the brisk weather kept him from getting too long-winded.
Pastor Miels said the weather forecast was for sunny skies and 28,˚ but it turned out to be overcast and 21˚ with a windchill making it feel even colder.
“I had layers on,” he confessed. The pastor said he will continue on with this format for as long as needed.
“For me, it was better than using the internet. I’m kind of camera shy,” Pastor Miels said. “I expect the weather to be more cooperative.”
The pastor was also able to greet each who attended as they left the parking lot—not with a handshake or elbow bump but with a wave and a smile.
“Shepherding in these times is unique,” agreed Pastor Steve Svendsen of Providence Reformed Baptist Church of Rice Lake. “I am contacting all of our people over 60 today, as well as those who otherwise fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category. We can normally ask them if they are well in person or check on them if they don’t show up for a service or small group. We just don’t want people to fall between the cracks. The church is still the church even when we cannot get together physically.”
Any service format changes? “We normally live stream our Sunday sermons, but that took on a different face yesterday,” he said. “We tried on purpose to not make it look like a church service because it was not. We presented some music and I taught from a stool in front of a black curtain.” He added, “Our goal was to offer hope from God’s word, knowing that the current crisis has actually given us a new platform for gospel ministry. We certainly had a lot more people tune in.”
Leah Hullinger, secretary at Bethany Lutheran Church in Rice Lake, said, “Bethany has been broadcasting live on the radio for years. We also streamed our 8 a.m. worship live, which is now archived on our website. Over the course of the week we have been doing things like “Drive-Thru Prayer” on Wednesdays at noon as well as posting a Lenten meditation video on our website. Pastors and staff also been active on Facebook and via phone.”
Pastor Wayne Hall of Abundant Life Church of Cameron said, “Although about half our people opted to stay home we did have two services with no more than 10 in each service. They went extremely well. We also taped our Saturday night service and put it on Facebook, which had about 350 likes so for us we had a very productive weekend.”