Sharing Shelter-in-Place Ideas from Across the Country

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By: Keith Palmer
Cokesbury Nashville Community Resource Consultant

Shelter-in-place has become the “new norm” for at least the next few weeks throughout most of the country and the world. In the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were reacting to the ever-changing scene in our lives and in our churches. Uncertainty, grief and fear were some of the frequent emotions we were feeling. “Fear is a good gift,” says Adam Hamilton in Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. “It helps us detect a danger or threat.” He adds, it’s important to “look to see how our faith can play a role in our fears.”

As a Cokesbury Conference Resource Consultant, I’ve seen firsthand how these fears are being overcome by the churches, pastors and Christian educators in our Conference. These servants have taken crash courses in video streaming and are transitioning worship, Bible studies, meetings and youth groups to virtual gatherings via platforms such as Facebook, Skype, Zoom and Amplify Media.

At this point in time, they have quickly shifted in many cases from reactive to proactive. This isn’t just in our Conference. I am hearing from my colleagues throughout the country about the creative ministry approaches their church partners are taking. They are “looking to see how our faith can play a role in our fears.”

Now that churches and pastors have a couple of “Shelter-in-Place” weeks under their belts, they can engage in longer-term planning from post-Easter worship and studies to more online Sunday School to VBS reimagining. It’s important to keep the connection and activity moving beyond the joy of Easter. These recommendations of “Books to Read in Anxious Times” could be helpful as your planning continues.

Activities that fall into post-Easter planning include:

  • Salem UMC is using Zoom to teach confirmation class.
  • Cedar Lane UMC is hosting a drive-by food pantry.
  • Luke’s UMC is sharing video posts on Facebook for the kids…each with a different theme. This week is prayer.
  • One church is doing a prayer bead ministry.
  • Corona Buddies is an intergenerational ministry where an older individual is paired with a family. The families call three to five times per week and check in, run errands, drop off goodies/cards/gifts. It is morphing into something special.
  • Some churches are playing songs from their upcoming VBS on Zoom in the evenings during their children’s devotions.
  • Salem UMC has compiled a list of members’ phone numbers and e-mails and assigned people in groups of three or four to check on each other every other day.  They are also sending out a one-page newsletter with up-to-date information twice a week.
  • New gatherings have been created by Main Street UMC, including 10 at 10 on Tuesdays (10 minutes of prayer with the pastor every Tuesday at 10 a.m.) and Wednesday Words of Wisdom, focusing on a different word each week.
  • A group from multiple churches visited a local hospital to pray for all the healthcare workers. Their cars were parked with flashers on, so hospital staff knew prayers were being said on their behalf.

Couple with this list the number of free, digital resources available, along with myriad streaming options and the inspired choices are many. (Check out Cokesbury’s free resources here.)

Please be reminded that I am also here to help equip you with resources to make disciples, share ideas, and lend a listening ear. Thank you for letting me be a partner in your ministry always, but especially during this season of challenge.

Take heart and believe, “I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (CEB)

Keith Palmer
Community Resource Consultant