As we in this congregation are experiencing this season of emergence from the lock downs and distancing of the pandemic we are also experiencing a shift in how we experience digital ministry. We’ve been doing things online since before Covid-19 – email communications, our website, even meetings and study groups by zoom. We’ve learned that expanding our work online also expands the ability for people to connect. So, we know online is here to stay. What we’re learning now in addition is the difference between online access and communication and doing ministry on a digital platform. What does such a ministry ask of us so that it might be done faithfully? This is the question that your leadership team, church council, and emergence team are exploring.
Next week is a perfect example of this. As we’ve done for generations, the congregational attention turns to our Seabeck All Church camp. Recognizing that 1/4 of our congregation is ineligible for vaccines and that we needed to make planning decisions early in the year, Seabeck Camp week is built as a digital ministry with some in-person events. Camp sessions with Professor Gilio-Whitaker, our campfires, and our children and youth sessions will happen via Zoom. For those who are able and comfortable, we’re offering sessions in-person and a Thursday night outdoor picnic for everyone registered. The tireless work of the Seabeck committee continued the pivot from last year to create a camp experience for digital campers.
In this and other experiences, we’ve learned that digital ministry is not a stop-gap for an emergency situation. We find true fellowship and connection when we design our ministry for a digital platform. It is why youth look back at this past year and have said of all the things they felt they lost to the pandemic, church wasn’t one of them. Youth group and retreats happened and the connections were real. We experience it when digital worship moves us – to tears, to joy, to praise. We see it through the growth of our Tuesday Bible study and our Wednesday prayer circle.
We’re also being reminded of what ministry feels like when it is in-person. With the new guidelines opening the building for groups up to 50 we’re starting to see committees, classes and groups gathering onsite.
In years past, the congregation focus turned to Seabeck even though not everyone attended camp. We can learn from that history as we head into another digital camp week. Some will come to camp, some won’t. Some will do the in-person events, others won’t. And through this we know that we are a dynamic community that has always helped folks engage at different levels of participation.
The path forward with digital and in-person ministry will be the same. We’ll continue to seek more ways to help folks engage with our growing community in deep and authentic ways. We will continue to walk faithfully together as we answer God’s call to be the beloved community.