Letter to The Call
When I saw the news story, “Holy Week looms while churches improvise" in last week's edition of The Call, I found the title to be disturbing.
In the back of my mind I thought, “This sounds doom-filled.” I know it was an article of how churches are dealing with the fast-changing coronavirus world we are living in.
However, I wanted to give you my perspective of what I have seen over the last few weeks as a children’s director at a large church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Our first week or so of the coronavirus pandemic was slow. Spring break was happening, and so many families were vacationing at home and not real worried. Kids were busy in their neighborhoods.
Then the shutdowns began, and kids were out of school longer and longer. When the church buildings were closed, our children's department had already begun Sunday school via Facebook Live. We soon added daily noon devotions for kids and their families and Wednesday-night Zoom classes for three different age groups.
My ministry assistant and I were brokenhearted when we had to cancel our annual Easter egg hunt scheduled for Palm Sunday on April 5. We decided to take our crafts and eggs and make bags for our kids. Our church chef offered to bake cookies for every bag.
We went through our rosters and attendance records, scouring and cleaning them up -- a task we had put off multiple times before. Now we were really digging in and checking. We got a solid list of 300 active children from birth through 5th grade. We printed out our new directories, divided them up, and asked for help delivering bags. We told our volunteers the delivery process was much like “ding dong ditch.” They were instructed not to stay and chat, but just to “knock, drop, and go.”
All 300 bags were delivered.
Immediately, I received responses from families. One family in particular, who I haven’t seen since fall, sent an email that left me in tears. The mother said she was home together with her husband and little girl. She said this time had changed them. They sit down to meals at the table, pray together, and are taking the opportunity to slow down and re-center. This child didn’t have strong ties within the church, but she was delighted to receive the bag of goodies. The family immediately had an Easter egg hunt in the yard. I received pictures of a smiling little girl who was excited for a simple treat and for being remembered.
I find that the “Holy Week looms” title disturbing because -- although we are experiencing inconvenience, fear, worry and anxiety – Holy Week isn’t looming. It’s waiting on us. It’s an open invitation to worship Him with our families, without all the hustle and bustle we normally experience. No sport practices and games, no extra activities and distractions, just a time with family and God.
In his online sermon last week, Pastor Wil Cantrell told parents that in this challenging time, their faith will truly be on display. Our kids are watching us. Holy Week isn’t looming – it will still unfold, and it will still end with the glory and riches of Easter. There will be His glory and our families, and worship will occur in a whole new re-centered way. I miss the laughter in the church halls, but our families are being presented with the chance to really stop and see what’s important right now.
I know there are many Christians who are home alone. My heart breaks for them. Our church is doing all they can to connect with them, and I know other churches are, too. But if the coronavirus pandemic had to happen, I think Easter is the ideal time. Easter can finally be the pure joy of Easter. This Easter will be family and God. Hallelujah.
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Heather Hayes is children's director at Concord United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.