WHAT’S NEW WITH YOU?
Updates from congregations around the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
The challenges and opportunities that each congregation faces are often impacted by their specific circumstances. Congregations are in different settings and face unique factors that affect their ministry. However, there are also circumstances and events that are more global, which affect all churches regardless of location. Within the last year, Redemption Lutheran Church and School in Lynnwood, Washington has sought to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with balance between our unique setting, and the position all Christians have been put in because of the global pandemic. In this way, perhaps our story in the last year is not unlike your congregation’s.
During this time, the members of Redemption have spent a great deal of time and energy on embracing opportunities to minister through technology. Like many churches, we have focused on improving our online presence through live-streamed worship services and Bible studies and using digital platforms to maintain contact with one another. During the in-person worship restrictions, we also installed two sanctuary monitors. This allows us to display hymns, liturgy, and readings to improve our ability to communicate the Word to visitors and families with young children. Updates to our audio/visual setup now allow us to share the same worship slides with those worshiping at home.
Improvements in technology were also seen in our K-8 Christian day school ministry. The potential for distance learning and prolonged student absences led us to purchase a set of classroom tablets. These devices provide our students with extended study and learning tools in various subjects. During the 2020-2021 school year, Redemption’s 11 students logged a total of 146 study hours and answered over 41,000 questions through these online programs.
The 4th grade students (our oldest level in the school during the 2020-21 schoolyear) also completed Bible history presentations that were recorded and shared with parents and members of the congregation. This project helped the students learn a variety of skills as they produced a PowerPoint presentation, written report, and presentation outline—all capped off by delivering their study findings in a recorded presentation.
Technology was also critical to the production of our annual Christmas Eve service which, due to health restrictions on in-person worship, required a great deal of flexibility in approach. Despite not being able to worship in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve, families were able to hear the message of Christ’s birth in their homes as proclaimed by our school children through a pre-recorded service. Many hours of memorization, practice, and editing went into creating this version of the timeless account of Christ’s birth. All service videos can still be accessed today via our YouTube channel (search “Redemption Lutheran”) if you would like to check them out.
One of the most difficult aspects of the last year was the lack of direct, face-to-face fellowship time, the absence of which was especially felt during the Lenten season when our customary preaching exchange with Ascension Lutheran Church in Tacoma was not possible. This unfortunate change also created a unique opportunity as both Redemption and Ascension members joined online for a Zoom Bible study series on the events during the last months of Christ’s ministry. Pre-recorded midweek Lenten services were also shared among the two congregations. Although not a perfect replacement for in-person fellowship, these online offerings were a definite blessing during this difficult time.
The challenges and opportunities we navigate are similar to those of other congregations, as we seek to return to a more “normal” routine. We had a taste of that this summer when we were able to conduct an in-person vacation Bible school with a theme based on the book of Proverbs. The Lord blessed our efforts by allowing us to share the life-saving message of wisdom in Jesus with more than forty-five children.
Although the polarization and turmoil of the pandemic is not entirely behind us, we continue work with encouragement and gratitude that the Lord not only provides new means to communicate the Gospel, He also blesses every effort to proclaim His Word—a promise that never changes! Within the last year we have been gently reminded by our gracious God that as one path is blocked, He opens new avenues to receive and share His mercy. Our continued task is to heed His will, pray for discernment in difficult times, and wait upon Him by faith to lead and guide us forward. With that hope steadfast in our hearts, we continue to work at discerning the many opportunities the Lord places before us to find new ways of sharing His unchanging grace.
Mark Tiefel is pastor of Redemption Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Washington.