In 2020, pastors found ways to care for their members responsively, creatively, and faithfully. The following is one way a Michigan District pastor found to do just that during Holy Week and beyond.
Rev. Mark Hetzner has been a pastor at St. Thomas, Eastpointe for 25 years. One of the blessings of his longevity is that he is fairly familiar with the congregation’s constituency. The following is an account of St. Thomas’ journey in 2020.
The pandemic hit just in time for St. Thomas, Eastpointe (STL) to scrap many of its plans for Lent and Holy Week and scramble to develop new ones. And, wow, was God ever at work! He ended up touching more people than ever expected.
For the past five-plus years on Maundy Thursday, instead of a worship service, throughout the day STL offered a “Journey to the Cross” where people walk through the church stopping at eight or more ‘stations’ that take them from Gethsemane through Good Friday. Included are stations offering private confession/absolution and private Communion. For 2020, the team was able to quickly produce a “Virtual Journey to the Cross” that people could attend through STL’s website. Not only did the number of participants more than double, but it is a tool that we intend to continue to use in the years ahead.
And then, knowing that people were hungering and thirsting for the Body and Blood of Jesus—and that STL would not be able to host a normal Good Friday noon service—it was decided to host a drive-in Holy Communion outdoors from noon until 3 p.m. This event was publicized through STL’s usual publications to people with whom they had regular contact and on STL’s Facebook page. A line started forming at 11:30 a.m.; we started serving 15 minutes later, and did not stop until the last car came through the line around 5 p.m. Everyone who came was either a member of STL or a friend of STL. Many cars stood in line for a half-hour waiting to be served, but only one or two left because the wait was too long.
As cars entered the church driveway, they were immediately met by an elder who provided them with an explanation of the process and gave them a registration card with some additional information. The reverse side of the registration card contained a prayer of preparation from the inside cover of the Lutheran Service Book and an explanation of what was taking place. Most cars ended up sitting in line for at least a half-hour, so there was plenty of time for them to prepare their hearts to receive the Lord’s Supper.
At the end of the line, we had another elder. He would receive their registration card, visit with them, and answer their questions. He also gave each car at least one copy of Portals of Prayer.
At the appropriate time, he would then direct them to and inform me of how many in the car were communing. I would then place the appropriate host (prepackaged in snack bags) and pre-filled cups at their end of an 8-foot table. They would get out of their car and gather at that end of the table while I stood at the opposite end. We would visit for a minute or so before beginning our service that included an invocation, confession and absolution, the Lord’s Prayer, and the words of institution. If I did not recognize the family, I would take the time to get to know them.
After their receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, I would dismiss them with a sharing of the peace. They would dispose of their used cup and bag … and every single family expressed great gratitude for the opportunity—many stating how they were concerned about how they might receive Communion under the current circumstances. The station was then sanitized and prepared for the next car.
St. Thomas has found this process to be such a blessing that they plan to continue doing it on a monthly basis.
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