by ALEXANDRA RETTER
With tree branches waving above, grass shifting below and a breeze moving through lightly, members of Central Lutheran Church worshipped in-person at Windom Park last Sunday. The service gave some congregation members the opportunity to see fellow members with whom they had not interacted since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. The service also marked the beginning of the church holding outdoor services throughout the month of August.
Several congregation members agreed that seeing others in-person and worshipping outside was a great experience. Ruth Schaffner had not had an opportunity to take part in virtual services, as she does not live in an area that allows for good internet connection. “We’re out in the sticks, you might say,” Schaffner shared. “We don’t even have cellphone service.”
She was able to see some of her friends from church at an outdoor service held on church grounds a few weeks ago, as well as at the service in the park. “Oh, I think it’s wonderful to see people again,” Schaffner said. “It seems like we’ve been pent up for so long.”
At the service in the park, Central Lutheran Church members Tim and Laurie Laib appreciated being able to briefly see and greet a few friends from church with whom they hadn’t engaged in some time, they said. “You could see they were still all right,” Tim stated.
Central Lutheran Church member Marie Holmquist said she was happy to see some families at the service on Sunday with whom she had not interacted since March. It was nice to see families together and to see children doing well, along with members congregants had been praying for, she said. “It’s nice to be around people, even if you’re socially distanced and in a mask,” Marie noted. “So, it felt good to be in our faith community again.”
“It’s just good to reconnect ... it’s good to see they’re doing well,” member Keith Holmquist said of interacting at the outdoor service. “It feels more complete when you’re with other people,” he noted.
The Laibs had participated in virtual services and outdoor services held on church grounds. Tim said the service in the park felt “a little more normal.” “The virtual service was just, it was nice, but something was missing,” Tim explained. “You need the fellowship.”
One meaningful part of worshipping in-person for Marie is singing hymns, she stated. “And there is just a restorative experience to collectively singing and collectively offering up in prayer the prayer concerns, be they individual prayer concerns of congregation members or more global prayers that are part of the service,” Marie shared.
Laurie also stated that worshipping outdoors was a good experience, particularly given safety and health precautions in place during the pandemic. “We’re all practicing social distancing,” Laurie said. “It was safer.”
“I thought it was very, very nice,” Schaffner stated. “And extra people showed up, some people who aren’t regular members here.”
Central Lutheran Church Directing Pastor Rev. Michael Short said he felt the service went well, and also gave congregation members a chance to be out in the community, he shared.
Outdoor worship services will take place at 9:30 a.m. at Valley Oaks Park on August 9, Jaycee Pavilion on August 16, Wincrest Park on August 23, and Sinclair Park on August 30.