Going out to the people

Even without hugs, ministry means presence

Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania (Bethany House Mennonite Church) in Newton, Kan., celebrated coming back together again in an outdoor service June 8, 2020. — Linda Shelly Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania (Bethany House Mennonite Church) in Newton, Kan., celebrated coming back together again in an outdoor service June 8, 2020. — Linda Shelly

Caring for the church has taken on a new meaning for me and has given me more compassion for those who are isolated and alone. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus went to where the people were. In this pandemic, going to where the people are has taken on a new meaning.

As a Hispanic church, where our culture is used to hugging and shaking hands, it has been hard. I felt lost at the beginning of the pandemic, but I learned how to use messaging apps to connect. We started a prayer chain through Facebook Messenger, each taking half an hour.

But we struggled with technology for worship services. We met outdoors when we could.

Our solution was to create a virtual room on Facebook Messenger where members connect every Sunday to see each other, sing coritos (small choruses) together, pray and even celebrate communion.

Learning to engage with the church in times of isolation has given me an opportunity to be creative and let the Holy Spirit guide me in how we connect. It has helped me look for ministry methods that work with technology.

The journey has been long, and as we long to be with one another in face-to-face gatherings, I am grateful for how the Lord has helped us be more present in each other’s lives.

One day soon, we’ll all be back together — hugging, singing coritos, shaking hands and praying. Until then, finding what works through technology has been a blessing.

Graciela Tijerina is pastor of Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania (Bethany House Mennonite Church) in Newton, Kan.

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