Great opportunities are born out of great adversity! The COVID Pandemic of 2020 certainly challenged us to think out of the box with regard to worship at Leesville UMC!
The week of March 15, 2020 brought the news that due to COVID, we would not be able to worship as a congregation in person. So, with the ingenuity and technology of Tripp and Becky Williamson, a plan was designed to move to a live streamed service. They set up their personal equipment in the fellowship hall by Wednesday evening’s Praise Band rehearsal. Brian Pierce joined the newly formed “Technology Team” and plans were made to bring our live streamed service through our Facebook pages and YouTube Channel.
You would think preaching to a camera would be an easy task, and Reverend Bruce Sayre made it appear so! But truth be told, it’s much different without your congregation being physically present. Musicians and pastors gain energy from those with whom they have attending worship!
But wait…on our first Sunday, we had a visitor, no less! What a surprise to have Editor, Tony Baughman, of the Twin City News to join us for worship in the fellowship hall for our fledgling service! Leesville UMC was featured in the following week’s issue!
We had success…with a few minor adjustments! Each week, the technology team, tweaked their production to make it even better for those watching on line. It went from eighty-one views the first week on YouTube to four hundred five views the following week.
Our communication team sent out a church wide email each week with the link to our live streaming page, and the link and worship information was also shared on our church’s Facebook Page each week. Trudy Matthews did a fabulous job capturing the highlights of worship each month for our newsletter. This was so important in chronicling history in the making!
In April of 2020, Dr. Joel Scraper, our music director, began to rotate with the praise band to provide a meaningful worship for our traditional worshipers. Easter was an extra special service with the beautiful music!
As the weeks went by, it became apparent that this wonderful opportunity borne out of COVID would be one that our church found valuable in reaching our community…one that we wanted to continue, even after returning to “in person worship”!
In order to make that happen, our church made funding a priority to be able to purchase production equipment for the fellowship hall and the sanctuary. Technology teams were trained and in place for the day we would return as a congregation!
Our church council and worship committee met to put into place guidelines that best fit each service which would allow us to safely worship together. Leesville UMC Guidelines were put into place, and June 14, 2020 was our target date for reopening!
For our Praise Band service at 9am, the fellowship hall was set with chairs appropriately distanced. We no longer offered coffee and donuts prior to worship. Masks and sanitizer were available, but not required. Worship was joyous as we had missed seeing one another and worshipping our good, good Father as one body!
There were a few changes in the service. The best change was that we added lyrics and scripture for our online audience to be able to sing and read along! The biggest changes for in person worshippers was that everyone stayed in their seats instead of passing the peace, coming forward for the children’s moments, passing the plates for offertory, coming forward for communion and sharing our joys and concerns before the closing hymn. But being in worship together was worth these minor inconveniences.
Months have passed and the good Lord has blessed us and seen us through this very difficult time. June has come again…a year later…but the joy is even sweeter! We will return to Pre-Covid worship on June 6, 2021!
So many have worked tirelessly to provide meaningful worship to all who came or listened online! To them, we say “Thank you!” Their investment and the investment of our church has been dear to us! We have been blessed to be a blessing…may we continue to be a city on a hill shining brightly for all to see Him!