By Sulz, Dave on August 27, 2020.
Taking a new job in a much larger church and in the middle of a pandemic might seem like a situation requiring extra-fervent prayer for any minister faced with such a challenge.
But Rev. Taylor Croissant is enjoying a smooth transition into his new role with Southminster United Church in Lethbridge, thanks to a church staff and membership that has already adapted quite well to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“This place seems to be ticking like a clock,” says Croissant, who joined the church as its new minister in early August after three years pastoring a church in the village of Kitscoty, near Lloydminster. His wife, also a United Church minister, has taken over as the minister for the Fort Macleod-Granum United Church.
Prior to that, Croissant and his wife, who is South Korean, were at a large church in Seoul, South Korea. The move from there to Kitscoty “was intentional,” says Croissant, noting it’s his belief that “ministers, like the RCMP, should do time in isolated places… It’s part of our call.”
Now, it’s a matter of getting up to speed again on life in a much bigger church, but with the added twist of doing so during a pandemic that has changed the normal way of doing things.
Croissant delivered his first sermon Aug. 9, but did so virtually because of COVID restrictions that have closed the church to in-person services. Throughout July and August, the city’s United Churches are offering virtual joint worship.
He did have a physical audience of sorts – the cameraman filming the sermon for later posting online.
“At least I was talking to a person,” Croissant said.
On the positive side, Croissant noted the virtual sermons are able to reach a larger audience than would be possible in a physical setting. The Southminster congregation numbers about 350 people and his sermon had already checked in at 475 views.
“In many ways it’s better because we’re reaching way more people through video,” he said of the online sermon format. He envisions that trend continuing even after the pandemic is over, at least for churches that have the technological capacity to do so.
“Now you’re reaching people who are homebound,” he says.
Connecting with the members of his new congregation has to be done in a non-physical way, too – by phone or Zoom calls – and Croissant has been busy reaching out to the church community that way.
Croissant believes those personal connections are important and in the digital world, connecting with people online has become the thing to do.
“That’s how people look for a church,” he says.
When it comes to serving its members, one of the keys is offering “authentic community,” Croissant adds, by providing the opportunity for people to feel a part of the church community.
For Croissant, the move to Lethbridge marks a return to his southern Alberta roots. He originally hails from Medicine Hat, where he was a devoted Tigers hockey fan, including during the Jay Bouwmeester era of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But he hopes Lethbridge Hurricanes fans won’t hold that against him.