Thursday, January 28, 2021

LEFC Worship Ministries 2020 Report

Worship Ministries Report
(Part of the 2020 Annual Report for Lanse Evangelical Free Church)

In 2020, our church worshiped like we never have before.

That’s not an understatement. According to our historians, in 128 years, our congregation had never gone two weeks in a row without gathering together in one place to worship Jesus. Bad weather has canceled the occasional worship gathering but never for more than one Sunday at a time. In March of 2020, COVID-19 interrupted that predictable succession of gathered Sunday worship.

So we quickly learned how to worship like we never have before. Starting on Sunday March 22, we began producing a Guide to Worship at Home sent via email and the post office (we produced 41 such guides in 2020). On Resurrection Sunday, for the first time ever, we all worshiped the Risen Savior from our own homes instead of in our auditorium. 

In fact, we went 11 Sundays in a row without holding a worship gathering on our campus. I think we all felt, like never before, how precious gathered worship truly is. And then on June 7, we resumed in-person worship with two new and shorter worship times (8:00, 9:30) and new health protocols to slow the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable among us. On July 12, we expanded to three worship times, adding an 11:00am service. 

Ready for Outdoor Worship Sunday November 8, 2020
And it was definitely worship like never before! For the summer months, we asked everyone to reserve their seating in advance so that we were certain we had a safe place for everyone. We began to learn how to worship in masks and face shields and sitting six feet from the nearest family. Several of us began to worship out of doors–under the tent loaned to us by the Scouts, in all kinds of weather: sun, rain, wind, cold, even snow.

All of that upheaval certainly made worship harder, but it also made it hardier and heartier. As the pastor, I have been very encouraged to see the tenacity and passion with which our church family has stayed committed to worshiping the Lord Jesus in the most difficult circumstances our congregation has faced so far. Nothing stops worship for Lanse Free Church!

The highlight for gathered worship in 2020 was Celebration Sunday when we held a special outdoor worship time in the field on our campus. Most of the church family  was able to gather and praise the Lord with all our souls for His faithful blessings on us, and we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together for the first and only time since March. 

While we long for the return of normal things like handshakes, hugs, holding babies, unfettered singing, and closeness in worship, we can also be thankful for some of the newer things we incorporated into our worship in 2020. We began to emphasize lament, expressing sadness in worship as the Psalms do so well. Better utilizing creeds, confessions, and catechisms, we also emphasized our unity with the whole church throughout the world and throughout the ages.

We mostly sang older songs in 2020 as it was important in an unsettled time to focus on timeless truths in familiar ways. The only new song we learned as a church, however, was very appropriate–Jesus, Strong and Kind. He is just the sort of Lord and Savior that we need!

We only memorized two passages for “Hide the Word” in 2020, but they were both very significant. Matthew 28:18-20 summarizes the church’s marching orders from our King and Philippians 4:4-8 tells us how and when to rejoice, how and what to pray, and how and what to focus our minds upon.

I am grateful for the ministry of our steadfast keyboardists: Anita, Amy Jo, and Misty for faithfully playing through 3 services each Sunday and for Joe, Cody, Jeff, Ben, and Dalton for stepping up to help me lead worship in singing in such a different format. We’ve had many wonderful folks jump in and serve as greeters, musicians, announcers, sound operators, and on the new “Clean Team,” as well as opening and closing up the tent on Sundays. As usual, the servants of our church have outdone themselves by humbly doing what needs done. 

In October, we stayed home again one Sunday to follow our COVID-19 safety policy. Then, at end of the year, we made the prayerful and painful decision to suspend worship gatherings for the entire holiday season, bringing the total Sundays we all worshiped at home to 15 in 2020. 

We all are ready for things to get back to “normal,” and hopefully that will come soon in 2021. My prayer is that, as the Lord leads, we can worship like ever before. 

Because Jesus is ever worthy:

“For the Lord is good and faithful
He will keep us day and night
We can always run to Jesus
Jesus, strong and kind”

- Pastor Matt