Worship in the Age of COVID-19 at Second Reformed Church, Zeeland

 

Like many churches, Second Reformed Church in Zeeland is now streaming its Sunday morning worship service. That is new to us, and it required some quick decisions about how to do so in a way that is consistent with our values while adapting to unusual influences. How could we shape our services in ways that approach what people find most valuable on Sundays without forcing solutions that come off as inauthentic to us or contrived? And how could we do this in a way that most of our members could gain access and participate?

 

Our goals are to retain as much as we can of our familiar rhythms of worship (the Church Year, sharing the lectionary other churches use, and structuring our service in a familiar way). Our preaching, prayers, and music are contextually aware and sensitive. We want to give each person the best chance to participate as they usually do, in dialogues, singing, praying. We know families are together, we remember that some are single, and we know that relationships among members are vitally important, across generations.

 

The best way forward for us is to focus on what’s most important, make the most of our assets, live within our limitations, and be as genuine and authentic as we can. So our services still are in the form of Approach to God, Word of God, and Response to God. Links to the live feed and to a PDF of the service, including music, are provided to members ahead of time, as are pastoral concerns written in “The Spire.”

 

Most of what we usually do is still part of the service, but there are exceptions. The main portion of the service is in our Chapel/Lounge, where less formal services are held. We are more attentive to time, selecting stanzas and erring on the side of being brief. We use fewer new songs, and rely more on familiar tunes and texts. We are “fasting” from Holy Communion until we can share the meal in community. There is no Children’s Message. And we use as few leaders and musicians as possible. 

 

We are relatively low-tech at Second Church. We don’t have cameras, sophisticated A/V equipment, projectors, etc., nor do we have expertise in running those things. So the prudent decision was to simply livestream on Facebook and Instagram, using a tablet and an iPhone. It is not polished or edited, has no special features or added presentations. It is simply us, live, in real time, connecting across time and space with the others who are scattered and homebound. That feels like The Church to us. People greet each other in comments, respond with an “Amen” or “and also with you.” They like being present that way.

 

Our pastors, in addition to their outstanding pastoral qualities and skills, are also musically gifted, and they together with our Music Fellow Aaron Goodyke have been key players. As a 60+ person, I stayed home for 7 Sundays and only returned on May 3, a very happy day for me personally. 

 

For the first few weeks (still in Lent), everything was in the Chapel, with piano. Easter morning was then very special when we began in the sanctuary with the Prelude and returned for the last hymn and Postlude. We have continued doing that, with very appreciative responses, even if the movement between places is inelegant. The Player on the organ has enabled us to record some pieces, so that only one of us needs to be onsite, but both of us can provide music. I have also put some audio recordings of these on our website, so that people can relive them if they wish.

 

You may find past materials by searching “Second Reformed Church, Zeeland” on Facebook. I look forward to learning new methods from reading about your experiences too.

 

Submitted May 7 by Gordon Bruns