By Carol Smith
We have all had to pivot in this season. We have worked from home, schooled from home, and canceled events left and right. In the midst of the all that, we have had to reimagine the Young Adult Retreat, originally designed as a one weekend get-away, to learn how we are created uniquely and with a purpose. While so many events were canceled, many went online. And so we decided to attempt an online cohort instead of a retreat.
Nine young adults, ages 17-21, participated in a Young Adult Cohort online for four weeks. April Diaz and I coached these young adults during a pandemic, activism and division over racial injustice, and their whole worlds looking different than they could have ever imagined. Many older adults who have gone through a lot in life were having a hard time and here are 9 young adults having to navigate the unknown with people who have never had to navigate it either. We asked a lot of them: to be present, to be vulnerable, and to participate fully. AND THEY SHOWED UP! They dug deep in a short time and I was energized by them.
You might be asking what is a cohort? Well, that was the question the young adults were asking as well. I am not sure how many knew what they signed up for when saying yes.
The Cohort was based on a coaching model. Coaching is being honest about where you are and where you want to go. Each young adult wrote their own mandate based on what they wanted to have accomplished in the 6 weeks from start to finish. They were creative and dreamed big. We had everything from wanting to write a song to complete all the tasks needed to start school in the fall.
We ended our time with the retreat we originally planned but it looked much differently than anything we could have imagined at the beginning of the process of dreaming up what we could do for and with our young adults. What would have been a jam-packed weekend, we transformed into a celebration and relaxing time.
It is not often we choose to get away with people who are not our family and without a ton of stuff planned. The option to go on the lake, sleep in, stay up late was left up to the individual. On an early morning kayak trip around the lake, a young adult said to me “I feel really loved by God right now.” It was not because we were answering Bible questions in a study or doing a “spiritual” thing but because we were connected to a part of God’s creation at that moment. So much of what the Bible describes life as is through water. That morning, God was visible. This is what it means to connect with God and to know God.
The weekend was filled with tears, laughter, rest, and recovery. But if I could tell you one thing about our time, it would be this: these young people gave me hope and energy for our future.
They care deeply.
They think deeply.
And they are willing to be vulnerable and present and dream about a future that seems unsure.
We could all do well to learn from them. Learn to care for the “others” and care for each other. Learn to take ownership and inventory of your lives to be a more whole version of yourselves. When we listen to our young peoples’ hearts, their hurts, and their perspectives, they benefit, but just as important, we ALL benefit. I could not be more excited about what is to come for these individuals! I invite you to do what they have done over the last couple months.
Be participants in your own life.
God has created you; the way you look, the way you laugh, the way you experience this world. He knows the direction your hair grows and the things that make you angry and what gives you great joy.
By Pastor Jorden Meyers
For the month of June, the movie Just Mercy is free on many streaming platforms. As we continue to wrestle with the complexity of race and justice in our country, I have invited my friend and colleague Pastor Dominique Gilliard to lead us in a discussion on this movie. Rev. Gilliard is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for our denomination as well as the author of the 2018 reader’s choice award-winning book, Rethinking Incarceration.
Rev. Gilliard is a trusted and well-researched voice in the history of the racialized incarceration system in the United States. In his book, he builds on the work of Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), and Christopher D. Marshall (Compassionate Justice) to create a readable narrative of this racialized history. Gilliard provides a survey on the history of mass incarceration, including “black codes” (restrictive laws passed in the late 19th century), convict leasing, and modern prison labor. He also takes the church to task for failing to “reckon with the reality that ever since black people were stolen from Africa and trafficked to this land, they have been dehumanized, abused, criminalized, incarcerated, exploited for profit, and governed in distinctively sinister ways."
One part of Rev. Gilliard's job with the denomination is planning and implementing a journey to understanding racial righteousness called Sankofa. Sankofa is an invitation to understand race as a critical component of our Christian discipleship. It is an interactive, spiritual formation, pilgrimage that equips Christians to pursue racial righteousness inside and outside the church. This relational journey traces the history of race in the U.S., and tangibly equips believers to begin living into the church’s mission to be ambassadors of reconciliation. I was blessed to participate in this journey last August, and you can read about that experience here. If you are interested in attending a Sankofa Journey, registration is now open for the October trip - more information can be found here.
Please join us for an online discussion of the movie "Just Mercy" on June 28 starting at 7:oo p.m. The cost will be $10.00/participant. Five dollars will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative and $5.00 will be given to Dominique Gilliard for facilitating. The movie is free to watch on several platforms. Click here to receive more information and a link to see how you can watch the movie.
By: Kristin Devine Mueller
Our Summer XPerience was unlike any other we’ve had as kids from our church, our neighborhoods, and our community gathered online! We learned to Focus on God and to keep our eyes open for how God works in the world around us. We saw God in creation, we looked for God as he revealed himself in Jesus, we encouraged our kids to talk to God in prayer, and we challenged our kids to live for God by loving others. We put together 80 kits for kids to use, and we encouraged all those who had registered to take a kit to share with a friend. Our kids did an amazing job of spreading God’s love in their neighborhoods! We took kits to our after school JAM kids, and we had 29 kids register through ECC. Those two groups of kids received and distributed 78 kits for Summer XP!
From Monday-Thursday, we had kids watch videos online and participate in Zoom small groups. Each night at 6:30, we premiered a video with the lesson for the day. Our worship team recorded 4 songs, including an original song by Meghan Gobrogge, both on location at ECC and on location at Miller Elementary. The lively motions, fun cheers, and oversized glasses made these music videos an interactive and fun way for our kids to worship God together online.
Each night, our video host Kristin Mueller would invite our video host Greg Louk to join the kids in a challenge for the next day. If enough of the kids participated in the challenge, Mr. Louk would fulfill his end of the deal, which always involved some sort of gross and messy task. When we posted enough pictures of how we saw God in creation, Mr. Louk let his dog lick peanut butter off his face! When we shared our sidewalk chalk art, Mr. Louk got covered in color run powder! Each night, we encouraged interaction with our online content by promising that Mr. Louk would fulfill his end of the messy deal. This helped add the element of fun that is always present when we gather together in person with Mr. Louk at Miller Elementary!
While we weren’t able to play games and do craft activities in person, we had a team of people who created supplementary videos for each evening of Summer XP. As kids finished the online videos and Zoom groups, they were invited to watch a series of videos that we posted in a playlist. The videos demonstrated different games that kids could play at home, with things they already had around the house. The videos also gave instructions on how to do the craft projects that each child had in his or her kit for the week. We even incorporated instructions for making your own bubble mix and ideas for using sidewalk chalk to connect with your neighbors!
As many churches have shifted to different models of Vacation Bible School in this season, we were grateful that curriculum writers shifted as well. We had story video content from the Orange curriculum to share each night, and we had small group guides for how to facilitate an online experience like the time we spent in Zoom. Each night, we would gather all together in one Zoom call, and then split into 3 groups based on age. Our Zoom meetings were lively and fun, and we were able to use the advantages of Zoom (such as the mute button) to give our teachers time to share the message of God’s love with our kids.
On Thursday night we joined the team who distributes meals at Bauer Community Center each week. Summer XP families were invited to come and pick up a meal as well as a celebration of our time together! We handed out t-shirts to kids who had participated with us, and we handed out sunglasses with our logo to all the kids who came through the line. Everyone who came through was also treated to Gibson’s Shaved Ice on a hot summer night! Greeting people as they drove through gave us an opportunity to share the sadness that we couldn’t gather in person this year but to also name the hope that we’d be back at Miller for Summer XP again next year.
Our hope and prayer is that this was a starting point for many of our kids and the kids in our neighborhoods to connect with others at ECC. We pray that these video and online experiences gave kids a glimpse into the children’ ministry that we do at ECC so that we can continue to invite our friends to in-person gatherings in the future.
We’re so thankful for all of you who prayed for us, created amazing content to share with our community, and spent time with our kids online!
We will resume worship gatherings on ECC’s campus on Sunday, June 14 at 10:30 a.m. You need to pre-register to reserve your place. There will be measures in place to protect everyone's health and watching the video below will give you a brief walkthrough to show you some of these measures.
Pastor Stacey's email from last week details the saftey measures in place. Below is a list of those procedures but you may also read Pastor Stacey's letter for more information.
If you wish to pre-register for the service, click the button below!
By: Pastor Jorden Meyers
It has been 86 days since we have worshipped together physically in our sanctuary at ECC. Who would have guessed that when we gathered together on Sunday, March 8, 2020 that we would not step inside our sanctuary for the next three months? Over these last three months that we have been separated physically, God has still been at work in and through our community. We are blessed at ECC to have an incredible team of ministry leaders, that when faced with the challenges that physical distancing presented, responded with innovation.
We have seen amazing things happen through the innovations that have taken place in all of our ministry areas from Sunday morning worship to our outreach ministry in the Bauer/Miller neighborhood.
God is good, God is faithful, and God is present.
On March 15, 2020 we began the new adventure of streaming our Sunday morning services. This has been something that we have talked about doing for years but the bandwidth and resources weren’t there. When in-person gatherings were no longer an option, we called up Greg Louk and asked if he would help us worship with our congregation in their homes. Greg has been instrumental in our ability to bring Sunday morning worship into each one of our homes every Sunday morning! We are very grateful for the way Greg has used his gifting to help the church.
Since beginning our online services, we have seen new faces, and we celebrate that the message of Jesus Christ is being spread far and wide from the ministry happening here at ECC of Lafayette. In the last twelve weeks of online services, more than 2,000 hours of worship have been consumed on Facebook. The good news is, now that we are further along in our knowledge and skill of streaming our worship services, we will continue streaming from now on. This will be a great blessing for our community!
Over the last few weeks, we have worked with JNE Productions to get our sanctuary set up for continued success streaming our worship services. We have purchased and installed new state of the art PTZ cameras, new lighting to help illuminate the front of the sanctuary, and a lot of new electronics in the sound booth to accomplish this. We are blessed to be a church in the state of Indiana because we were able to apply for a $5,000 grant from the Center for Congregations to help pay for some of these enhancements.
This past Sunday, we were able to start using this new technology. Pastor Stacey’s sermon was live from the sanctuary. We will try to transition more elements of the worship service to being live this Sunday as we prepare for our first in-person service on June 14.
Another worship related blessing that has materialized out of this COVID-19 season is a greater partnership with Riverside Covenant Church. Our congregations partnered together for our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, and every Sunday since then Meghan Gobrogge and Mike Tetrault have partnered to record the worship music to help lead both of our congregations into worship. This has been a beautiful partnership sharing our collective resources and spaces.
When we can’t gather together physically, we have become a “zooming” congregation. Most of our ministries here at ECC have met virtually over the past three months so that we can stay connected. Our children have met together for Sunday school, our youth have gathered together for youth group, our women and men have gathered together for Bible studies and fellowship, and our Senior Adult Ministry has gathered together as well. Although these virtual gatherings cannot replace our in-person community, they have provided some connection along the way.
In addition to our regular weekly ministries, we have been innovating how to transition our Summer Vacation Bible School online as well. Last night we started a four-day Virtual Summer XPerience for our community to engage in and grow in their relationship with Jesus. Please join us in praying that this year’s Summer XP would be impactful and would bring children closer to Jesus.
We are excited for our children and youth to be able to gather together again in the future. We are still navigating when that might be, but we have also been working in the Life Center Auditorium (LCA) in anticipation of that day. Over the past three months that LCA has been repainted and remodeled. The new color pallet is a fresh light gray with darker gray borders and we have built a new projection screen wall. The older retractable screen was taken down and a new smooth wall was built to help increase the size of our projection. This will bless not only our children and youth but our whole church for congregation meetings, as well as all of the ministries that we partner with that use the LCA. In addition to renovating the auditorium, we have also painted some of the class rooms and deep cleaned many carpets around our campus. Our custodial team wants to ensure that ECC is as safe as possible when we return to our regular activities.
Finally, our outreach ministry has been hard at work to ensure that ECC is still providing for those in need in our community. For over a decade ECC has been providing a weekly meal at Bauer Community Center every Thursday night. When the restrictions were put into place that public gatherings could not happen, Ronda Ooms and her team innovated and created an accessible drive-thru meal option.
Every Thursday night a team from ECC has handed out meals in a drive-thru model from the Bauer Community Center. The number of people being fed through this Thursday evening ministry has increased during this season and because of the innovation and heart of Ronda Ooms, ECC has been able to show up and serve. Another very cool Outreach Ministry event that happened a few weeks ago was a surprise phone call from Panera Bread. Ronda Ooms was called by Food Finders, because of our known impact and ministry in the city, and was asked if she would be able to hand out meals that have been donated by Panera Bread. Ronda agreed that we could facilitate this and agreed to take Wednesdays for 4 weeks. For four weeks Ronda was given 400 meals each week from Panera, and we were able to bless the community. This Thursday, our outreach ministry will be partnering with our Children’s ministry once again to provide drive-thru meals for every Summer XP participant.
God is good, God is faithful, and God is present.
Although it has been 86 days since we have been able to gather physically in our church building we have seen the church at work in big ways! Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed and discouraged because of this massive disruption to our world, but we wanted to share some encouraging news about how we have seen God at work in and through ECC! Thank you for faithfully praying for our ministries. Thank you for faithfully giving to ECC. Thank you for faithfully serving at ECC. God is doing big things and we continue to follow the spirit’s leading! We know with confidence the Kingdom of God is not in danger and that we can further the Kingdom even now.