First UM Church: Worshipping in the park

Worshiping in the park

When faced with crises, people of faith adapt, survive and even thrive.

During a pandemic, with church doors closed to parishioners, area churches have been inventive in figuring out how to continue to minister to their members. Many began live streaming Sunday sermons, and even music.

Others set up drive-in style services in parking lots. Still others took to the great outdoors, where social distancing could be easier accomplished.

Chambersburg’s First United Methodist Church, Second and Washington Streets, moved its Sunday morning service into Municipal Park. The congregation’s new minister, the Rev. Steve Livermore preaches the morning sermon from the park’s bandshell, where microphones can be set up.

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The congregation brings its own lawn chairs and social distances in the spacious area facing the bandshell.

Those who have tried the outdoor services seem to like the new worship format.

“That was my favorite worship service ever,” one person commented after the service a few weeks ago. 

“I am grateful to God for the opportunity that First Church has to gather for worship in a safe manner at the bandshell in the park,” Livermore said. “There is room for social distancing in the open air and people are willing to wear masks.”

Those who would not feel comfortable in the sanctuary are attending in the park. Instead of three services, the congregation comes together in one blended service so folks can connect  with others they might otherwise not see. 

More than just a worship service

The park provides for more than just a Sunday morning worship service.

The children’s ministry and the youth ministry, as well as a new parenting group and various Sunday School classes, meet in the shade of trees.

Stephanie Byers is a counselor who ministers to the parenting class, Parenting During a Pandemic. It is a faith centered opportunity for parents to receive and offer encouragement, support, and hope as they navigate the very real challenges of raising children and teens in this season of extraordinary uncertainty. 

“We journey together to find peace and rest in God’s truths and blessed assurance of His ever present love and care,” Byers said.

First Lights Children’s Ministry meets after the worship service, something that at times takes creativity when trying to get children’s attention with all the outdoors distractions.

“Gathering kids and getting their attention when we are outside is not easy, but it’s a wonderful way to connect them to each other, said children’s minister Brianna Renshaw.

It is also a great way to help them connect with God.

“This month we’ve been talking about God’s creativity and being outdoors is actually perfect,” she said. “There is no better way to show off God’s creativity than observing the beauty of nature.”

Kids can move and play games that couldn’t be done indoors, she pointed out.

“Kids are free to get wet and messy and leaders don’t have any clean-up,” she said. “It’s certainly not what we are used to on Sunday mornings, but I think it’s something we will miss when it’s gone.”

Making connections

In a time when many crave personal connection, the opportunity to be together in the park has been especially crucial for teens.

“Every week, our youth ministry is able to meet together after worship to build up that in-person connection again,” said youth minister Collin Moyer. “If we have learned anything over the last several months, it’s been the reminder that relationships are crucial for mental, emotional, and spiritual development.

“It has been a huge blessing for our group, and for me personally, to be able to have this time each week to see students face to face; catch up and ask how they are doing; goof off with some silly games; and remember together that God established the importance of human relationships in our lives. 

School is entirely online for many, if not most, students, making youth activities even more important, he said.

“Through this weekly park worship, we have seen God’s faithfulness displayed for our youth group, and for our church as a whole,” he said. “We know He will continue to be faithful to us moving forward.”

First United Methodist’s worship starts at 9 a.m. every Sunday in front of the bandstand in Municipal Park. Children’s and youth activity starts at 10. Everyone is invited. Bring lawn chairs.

Worship in the park

FUMC’S WORSHIP IN THE PARK 

By Parish Visitor Gail Vaugh

No walls, floors, roof or windows. No hard pews to sit on 

BUT

Lots ofblue sky, puffy white clouds and sun

Trees,breeze’s and some shade

Hearingthe birds

Greengrass underfoot

Lawnchairs tosit on

Seeing friends,
we have not seen for some time

Social distancing and talking with friends

So good to
be together to worship as a church family

Beingable tosing our hymns of faith together

Hearing
Pastor Steve bring us scripture and the Word

Such a wonderful
peaceful place to worship and listen for God’s moving

AND

The greatest is to be together for Praising our Lord and Savior


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