Tuesday, January 25, 2022

LEFC Worship Ministries 2021 Report

Worship Ministries Report
(Part of the 2021 Annual Report for Lanse Evangelical Free Church)

"We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;”
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.” 
(Anonymous 17th century hymn from the Netherlands. Translated from the Dutch original by Theodore Baker.) 

In 2021, our church family came together more and more to seek and to celebrate the blessings of our Lord. As we entered a second year of worship amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, we remained undaunted in our efforts to gather to praise our God while simultaneously endeavoring to protect each other from a dangerous disease. 

Gathering together well in 2021 required even more creativity, flexibility, diligence, and faithful service.

Coming Together Outside

In January, we added a new tool to our worship toolbox that greatly increased our options and brought us closer together–FM transmission. On Sunday mornings, in addition to worshiping inside at 8:00, 9:30, or 11:00, under the tent borrowed from Troop 46, or at home utilizing our online resources, families could now also choose, in all weather, to participate in worship from their vehicles listening to 89.5 “WLFC” in the parking lot. It was initially weird but also wonderful to hear people “honk” their “amens” to remind us that we are all together as one worshiping family.

Coming together to worship outdoors was one of the chief highlights of 2021. On Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, we all gathered at one time to commemorate the atoning death and victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Our hearts soared as the sun rose over all of our vehicles, and our voices soared together across our big parking lot as we sang, “Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!” 

We all worshiped outside together on the last Sunday of each month throughout the late spring and early autumn, including Graduation Sunday, Family Bible Week Finale, and Back-2-School Sunday. Our series of total outdoor worship gatherings culminated in a beautiful Celebration Sunday in September featuring an engaging MMR “Message from the Mount” and wonderful outdoor baptisms.

Matt & Jenni Cox of Miracle Mountain Ranch

Proclaiming Our Faith!

Joyful baptisms!

Coming Together Inside

As the year unfolded, we began to come together indoors increasingly, as well. In April and May, as pandemic restrictions began to recede across Pennsylvania, we removed constricting barriers inside of the building. In June, we consolidated to two worship times, 9:00 and 10:30, and restarted the prayer corners ministry. In July, we celebrated the end of statewide restrictions and added a half hour of coffee and sweet fellowship between worship times. There were more and more handshakes, hugs, and folks standing nearer to each other as we sang. Then in August, we returned to one worship gathering at our old familiar time of 10:00am! 

Having a single worship time once more provided us with the opportunity to add back in a number of things we had very much missed during the previous year. Throughout the autumn, we again enjoyed special music offerings, presentations from visiting missionaries, “worship at work” interviews, longer sermons, and, especially, the routine observance of the Lord’s Supper. On Christmas Eve, we once again came together in candlelight to rejoice that Emmanuel has come and shall come again.

Coming Together Yet Still Spread-Out

As the year began to wane and winter approached once more, it became increasingly obvious that surging variants of the original virus were still not going to make it easy to return to the way things used to be, so we continued to focus on providing creative options for worship while still gathering together. 

In November, we took advantage of the church’s original loudspeaker system and replaced the outdoor worship tent with small “spread-out” indoor seating areas sprinkled throughout our facility. Inside and outside on Sunday mornings there is a place on our campus for anyone and everyone to gather in safety and comfort to worship Christ the Lord.

“Sing Praises to His Name”

In 2021, we sang mostly older songs that have stood the test of time as we are being tested in our time. We did learn one new song that has a timeless message, “Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me.” We continued to incorporate classic statements of truth drawn from creeds, confessions, and catechisms to emphasize our unity with the whole church throughout the world and throughout the ages. And we memorized and recited Scripture together: Philippians 4:4-8, Psalm 100, and 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Coming Together Through Faithful Service

I am incredibly grateful for everyone who helped make our worship gatherings possible in 2021. Amy Jo, Anita, Misty, and Darla all took turns at the keyboard in lots of varying circumstances–sometimes under a canopy in misty rain or blazing sun and other times at three different services on the same Sunday! Our talented Tech Team did the same, often running cables in multiple directions indoors and outdoors. The Clean Team sanitized and straightened when we had multiple services. Guys showed up early and stayed late to open the tent, wheel out chairs, and then wheel them back and close it up again. Our growing team of greeters made people feel welcome as we all came together to worship. 

Joe and Cody stepped up to the microphone multiple times to lead us all in singing. Numerous faithful ladies sang melodies and harmonies in the worship choir while several different folks strummed accompanying guitars. At least six different men did the announcements over the course of the year. (And while the Lord “forgets not his own,” I have probably missed some key people in this list.) Our whole church can be thankful for every single person who blessed our church family with their faithful service in gathered worship. 

Coming Together to Worship Jesus Christ

Because it was such a pivotal year, this report has focused on the different ways we worshiped in 2021. But, of course, who we worshipped in 2021 is much more important than how we worshiped in 2021. And while we progressed through many changes as we came together in worship, thankfully, we were worshiping an unchanging Savior:

“What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer
There is no more for heaven now to give
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom
My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to His
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing, ‘All is mine’
Yet not I, but through Christ in me”

Whatever may come in 2022 and beyond, may we hold fast to Him!

-Pastor Matt