Socially Distanced, Socially Connected

Lara Schopp Articles, Mike Graves

Most every week when the staff meets, we read an article or excerpt from a book for us to ponder and discuss. Some are heavy, others not so much. Some focus directly on ministry, others on a variety of topics with us having to make our own connections. But there’s always food for thought. Recently Joe Walker selected a piece on how educators can increase engagement when teaching students online. In his email introduction to the piece he invited us to find connections with doing ministry online. How does a church whose worship service is now online find a way to engage the people, keep them involved?

This got me to thinking about a slightly different question, which I’ll get to shortly. Here’s the background to my inquiry. If you think about it, church happens on two planes, the vertical and horizontal. In the former category, think personal devotions with God or Sunday worship. When gathered, people sing songs to God, offer up prayers. “Up” is the key word in the vertical plane. We used to do that in-person on Sunday mornings. Remember? We still practice the vertical, but now it happens online, each of us in our homes or on our patios. That’s the vertical dimension.

The horizontal plane is also important in the life of a congregation. This takes place in worship as well, when people greet each other. It could happen spontaneously when you see someone who is celebrating the birth of a first grandchild, and you offer congratulations. Or maybe more formally when “passing the peace,” and you offer a stranger a warm greeting. There are other forms of horizontal happenings in the life of a church, things like small groups or feeding the poor. Those are all horizontal moments.

So, here’s my question. If during the pandemic and a time of social distancing, we are still worshiping, which is mostly vertical when done virtually, what more can we do to connect with each other, to engage the horizontal? As many of you know, some small groups continue to meet, some virtually, others gathered on a driveway, and still others in the tent behind the church. And donning masks, many of the outreach ministries of our church continue in one way or another. But we are also somewhat isolated from each other these days.

I’m delighted to note that two of our social gatherings for men and women will also continue this fall, FaithPub and FaithBistro. For those who have never been, these groups typically meet in a local restaurant for some food and drink but also to connect and listen to a guest speaker. This fall, these groups will meet in the church’s tent on a couple of Thursday evenings from 6:30-8:00 pm. Bring your own favorite beverage and a snack if you want. Bring a friend if you like. The schedule and speakers are listed below.

Please be assured, we will wear masks and practice social distancing, but the point will be to practice social connection.