On any given Sunday, when the body of Christ gathers to worship together, countless individuals have an opportunity to use their gifts for the benefit of the community. People serve each other by caring for young children, teaching older kids about the love of Jesus, and setting up and tearing down equipment. They contribute by welcoming newcomers, providing food and coffee, singing or playing instruments, and in so many other ways. And all this is just for the weekend gathering!
Service is a fulfilling and powerful part of our participation in the body of Christ. When we show up, bring who we are, and use our God-given talents and experiences to bless others, God changes us.
So, what happens when the Church can’t meet together in person? What happens when opportunities to serve are limited or when chances to connect as a community are hindered?
As we’ve seen before, the Spirit of God is not dependent on our ability to meet in a building on any particular day. As Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, where we worship is much less important than how we worship.
We also know, though, that the shift we’ve all made in the wake of COVID-19 limits our ability to serve one another and to connect together in ways that are familiar and comfortable. It also creates new and different opportunities for service, new ways for your community members to share their strengths and lean into one another’s weaknesses.
One way that people are finding to serve in this new environment is by volunteering and hosting Alpha for their church. These volunteers share that Alpha is a powerful way for them to serve their community during a time when they can’t serve in the ways they typically have in the past.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Community in Scottsdale, AZ, stepped out in faith this spring offering online Alpha with many first-time hosts and helpers. In light of this unique time of social isolation, St. Patrick’s filled a massive gap in their community. Scott, who watched this unfold, said this about the parish’s experience, “Although we are not allowed to meet in church buildings, online Alpha has filled the gap to journey with others to find faith, life, and meaning.”
Some volunteers and students are also finding a new joy in providing a listening ear to our youth through Alpha Youth, others are strengthening their own marriage and supporting the marriages around them through The Marriage Course.
Bridgetown Church in Portland, OR, recently offered The Marriage Course online. Expecting 30 couples to register and attend the course, they were overwhelmed to see more than 300 couples from 24 states and two provinces participate!
“Offering couples seven date nights in the midst of this pandemic lockdown hit a felt need. Couples loved the experience of going through The Marriage Course as it provided space for them to talk about real issues throughout each session in the privacy of their own home. We feel the opportunity to do this online has reached far more couples than we ever could have imagined.” -Kirk, Bridgetown Church
Many of the church’s married pastoral team also participated in the course, finding the experience to strengthen both their own marriages and their connection to the broader community.
None of us want this season to be a time when our church members hide away in their homes, isolated, alone, afraid, and without agency. Instead we want to invite our community into the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, connecting with one another and serving others in love.
Rather than isolating at home, becoming stuck in the routine of daily living and turning our focus internally, service to others turns our eyes outward.
It helps keep our focus on loving the people around us. And this helps our communities grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, filled with the assurance of his presence in their lives.
We’d love to hear how your community is keeping people engaged in service during this trying year and what you are learning through that experience. Share your own story with us here.
This is the fifth in a series of six posts sharing the journey of moving Alpha online, and the discoveries we’ve found along the way as we’ve come alongside the Church to serve and equip leaders in this unique cultural moment. See previous posts by clicking on the title below:
– Caring for Community in Crisis
– Connecting Community in Crisis
– Creative Hospitality in a Virtual Environment
– Creating Space for the Holy Spirit
Interested in learning about how you can run Alpha online this fall? Find all the resources you need here. Whether you run online or in person this fall, be sure to register your course to get the latest resources to support your Alpha.