WMUB Report: praise during the pandemic

Host: This year all around the world COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes on traditional religious services. Hello, I’m Lillian King, Mulberry Methodist Church in Macon had to quickly learn how to navigate around the ever changing guidelines in the CDC during the pandemic. Trevor Ward, youth pastor at Mulberry Methodist opted to take his message online encouraging young people to log on for worship. So tell me a little bit about what it is you do at mulberry Methodist.

Guest: I’m one of the associate pastors at Mulberry St. United Methodist Church. We’re downtown; a lot of people know about us through making outreach, which is our homeless feeding ministry. And so one of the things that I get to do is work with our student ministry, which is grades six through 12. And those are students from all over the Bibb county and Macon and Middle Georgia area.

Host: Once the virus in the COVID-19 hit, I understand that all the churches, mostly churches went online. How did that go with Mulberry doing online with their worship services and also with the youth group?

Guest: One of the things that we did as a church as a whole was we quit meeting in person and we started pre recording all of our worship services. And that was just an awesome way to stay connected and to get the message out there to our community. And the cool thing with that was, a lot of our members were able to then to share those messages and share those worship services with their friends and family to help provide that faith and spiritual encouragement to our community in one of the things that we did with our student ministry, we took a step back from in person gatherings around late February, early March. And we immediately started doing our services in our in our gathering And our small group meetings online and we met via zoom. And we we were able to really connect with our students and just continue to meet and continue to talk about scripture and have Bible study and all that stuff together online. So that was really cool that we could do that.

Host: As the year we started this, what in March, as it progressed on, could you see a difference in attendance from the beginning towards like the end of zooming and I guess the summer?

Guest: Yes, so a lot of students school went virtual, so they were used to kind of coming together on zoom for their classes and watching videos and stuff like that online for their school. And that was back in the spring. So I would say kind of early on when all of this hit on COVID and everything shut down, there was kind of this honeymoon phase, I guess you could say. So we were really excited to meet on zoom. People were excited to not have to go to school. And then the reality of that of just not being able to connect in person kind of became a little bit of a downer and it was honestly we lost some engagement with our students because of that. I think and another factor is that just for the summer a lot of our students typically have they go away to vacations with other family friends, and while a lot of that kind of was cut back because of COVID I think, you know, we saw a little bit of a decline because of that. And I was hoping that we would have a little more engagement because it was via zoom and people could connect from all over but I guess you know, when you get on vacation, you just kind of want to relax and be with family and friends and you know, lay out at the beach so it’s kind of hard to to zoom when you’re hanging out on the beach.

Host: What is Mulberry doing now that churches are starting to open back up?

Guest: So one of the things we’re doing, we are meeting back in person; we have been since kind of mid July and we took steps to really provide the safest environment for our community for our members and for our visitors and guests. And we have been very, very strict with how we enforce those guidelines. We have temperature checks at the door, we have reservations to maintain a certain capacity for our for our members. And for those who are attending worship, we enforce masks, we’re actually not congregationally singing to kind of cut down on the spread of those air particles and and then we’re also maintaining just that safe social distance and we’re going behind everybody and sanitizing everything. So we’re pretty strict when it comes to how we’re operating. We really want to create a safe environment where people feel safe to come and worship because honestly when you’re in worship, you don’t want to have that. That feeling of anxiety as well; am I am I going to catch this thing, am I gonna get sick from being around other people and we’re really trying to mitigate all that as best as we can. So, and then for our students, we are meeting in person. And we just started that this past week. And that was kind of around Labor Day weekend and we decided to meet outside just because we felt like that would be a lot safer. And we’re doing contactless games and games that allow for us to socially distance and we’re giving students the option to wear masks, you know, to allow them to feel safe, but for the most part, they’re all keeping six feet or more apart and then we’re able to do our lesson and our Bible study in our small group discussion so it’s been pretty cool to even meet outside it’s been pretty good weather, too.

Host: I understand your job is difficult dealing with teens and leading them to cry. And also just despite like with the pandemic, being online with everything, what kind of advice can you give to the students, just encourage MIT or just about dealing with this like state of fear of being scared of the virus and such?

Guest: Yeah, so I think one of the interesting things with people in general, and especially in teens and in preteens, a lot of them, struggle with anxiety and, and that sort of thing and so, not to add to stress of school, but then to add, you know, the stress of this whole COVID and whether or not they’re, they’re going to be safe, or they’re going to, you know, give it to somebody else and their family. I think that’s probably one of the biggest concerns for most of the younger generation, because a lot of them, you know, as we’ve seen, there’s less a lot less likely chance of them experiencing really, really, you know, horrific symptoms of this. And, you know, I think the biggest thing is that they would pass it on to their parents or someone else who’s perhaps immunocompromised are just more susceptible because of whatever their health conditions are. And, you know, I think the biggest thing when it comes to being a pastor and, and helping people to, just to walk alongside them, and to let them know that they always have a community they always have support is one of the biggest things to help continue to reach out to them and keep them connected. So I’ll text them or I’ll call them just to check in on them and make sure that, you know, they’re doing okay through all of this. And a lot of them they haven’t seen their friends for a really long time because certain parents are a little more strict when it comes to how they allow their students to interact with others and their their conditions are everybody’s a little bit different on this whole thing. So just navigating that has been difficult, but I’d say one of the best things is just showing grace to each, each person and each family unit just to really honor what what their decision has been throughout this process and just really love this through that and help keep them connected as best as we can to, to the church because that’s just a lifeline for so many people. And it provides that spiritual nourishment that that encouragement that they need throughout the week. And I think the Community of Christ is just really vital for a lot of people’s mental health and their well being. And so I think, yeah, just keeping them connected has been probably the biggest thing on my list of just making sure that they know that they still have a support system.

Host: Yes, so true, especially during these times. They can be isolating and you can feel alone, especially when you’re self isolating or when you’re social distancing. I think having a community and knowing that you’re loved and connected with other people around you really helps. Yeah. Thanks for joining me today. And thank you for joining us at home. I’m Lillian King with WMUB. See you next time.