June 16th, 2024

COVID-19 changing the way churches connect


By Al Beeber on September 16, 2021.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Monica Loewen looks at a photo of her late mom Cathy Wind, one of several photos that were displayed at Evangelical Free Church recently so family members could honour their loved ones who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

onica Loewen felt the pain of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic like so many others. Her mom died in April and Loewen has a personal connection to an event at Evangelical Free Church staged for two days last week that gave people a chance to properly pay homage to those beloved family members who passed during the pandemic.
For Loewen, Minister of Community Engagement at the church, a house of worship is not just a building but a community. And the two-day “Event to Remember’ was open to all members of the community.
Seventeen people submitted photos for the event. One is of Loewen’s mom Cathy Wind , who died of cancer at the age of 66 and like the rest it was put on display in a room where people could read about those who have died and spend some time contemplating their loss.
“In July, we were coming back to normal except our people weren’t coming back,” Loewen says of deceased loved ones.
COVID has changed the world as we know it and that includes the institution of the church. And those COVID changes have affected churches, just as dramatically as they have individuals and businesses.
Online sermons changed the way churches reach their congregations and now E-Free is only seeing about half its usual congregation in the pews on Sundays, Loewen said this week.
A number of members are continuing to attend online services, which Loewen says, enables a church to reach a different demographic than the one that might normally walk through its physical doors.
It’s presented “unique challenges and is driving us to go out of our comfort zone,” she says.
“We’re trying to open our church to the entire community,” says Loewen, adding that people who perhaps have never attended a church are now engaging with one because of the way the pandemic has changed the way churches operate.
E-Free has reached out to the community in various ways including supplying laptops to needy students in the Lethbridge School Division and opening its air conditioned children’s play area at the church as a place where people could cool off during this summer’s heat wave.
“We’re trying to show the city we’re here and that we are here to serve the city.”
Many lessons have been learned during the pandemic including “the value of being home,” says Loewen, and people have learned “we need community. We were created to be with other people.”
The entire world, she says, has learned we need to be among other people and the church’s message is “we are here for you.
“We aren’t the same on the other side of COVID,” adds Loewen.
Since COVID hit, people have reached out to each other, helping each other get through difficult times and showing perhaps a better side of humanity. Neighbours got to know each other like they didn’t before, she says.
“It would be a real shame if we went back to the way we were,” adds Loewen.
With so much conflict over masks and vaccines, Loewen believes “we should be able to respect one another enough to live with one another. We are all part of the global community. . . I hope the community comes out for the better.”

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John P Nightingale

There really should be no conflict over masks and vaccinations. Yes, a minority disagree vehemently with both measures and what were once merely vocal , this group is now picketing hospitals and seemingly using threatening behaviour.
This is more than just about “me”, rather the entire population. A break in the chain has ramifications for all.
Respecting others is critical and thus religious denominations have a crucial role to play if we are to “crush” this virus. (To use the totally ridiculous words of our premier back on July 1st)