The situation with the Coronavirus pandemic has been a rapidly changing situation, leaving congregations and pastors to be creative in finding safe ways to be community together.  Some churches closed completely, others canceled Lenten services and meals and were hypervigilant about handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, not reusing bulletins and maintaining social distancing during public worship.

“During a pandemic, the best way to love and serve our neighbors is to avoid putting them at risk.” Pastor Daniel Flucke, St. Peter, Greene.

Tuesday afternoon Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued an order prohibiting any public gatherings of more than 10, including social, community, spiritual, and religious gatherings.  This, at least, has made the decision to suspend worship services easier.

Pastor Erika Lenth, St. Paul, Monona

Now what?

Bethlehem Lutheran in Cedar Falls over Zoom, are worshipping on YouTube on their church channel, and communicating on their Facebook page. They also will be using Taking Faith Home and Illustrated Children’s Ministry to connect with their families through their church website and give folks a chance to connect that way.  Should this move into further weeks of quarantine, Bethlehem will be giving each member a top 10 list of 10 other members to check in with and care for.

“If we can help protect each other and keep each other healthy, I am thankful to be a part of that,” commented Pastor-Amy Eisenmann.


Most pastors have severely limited home and hospital visits.

Pastor Katie Rodriguez, St. John, Maxfield and Messiah, Janesville is calling every member every week to see how they are doing.

Pastor David Coffin, Elgin Lutheran, sends his sermons to members via email.

Pastor Paul Amlin, Lord of Life, Dubuque, held a zoom meeting with members to answer questions about how they will respond to the crisis.

Pastors in the Mason City area are holding text study via Zoom.

Digital Worship

Many congregations are offering live stream services.  Some are offering a full liturgy filmed at church with organ music.  Others offer more informal worship from the pastor’s  office or home.

Bethesda in Jewel records the service during regular church office hours.  They utilize the staff that is there with their administrator on keyboard, Youth Coordinator and Pastor Dave Nerdig doing vocals and readings, and Pastor Nerdig doing an object lesson.

Trinity Lutheran in Mason City streams a modified traditional worship designed to be interactive. They encourage each family to get a cross, a candle, and a bowl of water to participate in worship.  The goal is to teach an “at-home” worship that families can use when they are not present at the church even after the current health issue has passed. They also have Trinity pastors monitoring and participating in the online conversation on Facebook throughout the service.

Trinity has also offered to welcome area congregations by name who do not have their own live stream and invited their pastors to be part of their worship.

Pastor Laurel Meester, First, Dows, streams the service from her home because she lives 40 miles from the church.

 “It feels more intimate and hen we are all worshiping in the same type of space.”

St. Petri, Story City, and Bergen, Roland, are streaming Wednesday Lent worship together on Facebook Live.

St. Timothy, Hudson, is doing Holden Prayer on Wednesdays via Facebook Live.

“Routines have changed, but God is a constant source of strength and hope.” – Pastor Beth Olson

Pastor Stacey Nalean-Carlson, Glenwood & Canoe Ridge Lutheran Churches, Decorah, have been sharing morning and evening prayer on YouTube.

Pastors are also corresponding to come up with ways they can work together to offer worship opportunities, especially as it looks as though the crisis may continue into Holy Week and Easter.

Lutheran Colleges

At Luther College, students are preparing to move out of residences if they can, and to stay if they can’t. Faculty are preparing to move classes online. Staff are continuing to work on campus in reduced numbers to keep up with residential college needs, but otherwise, many work from home.  The Luther College Ministries will be posting daily; some of it will be sermons and readings that were planned for chapel and Sunday morning worship,  as well as videos, photos, podcast recommendations, recipes,  and other reflections.  There is a Target wish list for those who would like to help out students who need to stay on campus. Little Free Pantry at Luther College

“We are committed to finding ways to stay connected and share peace, joy and hope in these times.” Pastor Anne Edison-Albright, Director of College Ministries and College Pastor.

This week all Wartburg College students were advised to leave the campus and return home as soon as possible

Wartburg College is streaming their chapel services.

“We are also developing other online ministry options to support the community and remind ourselves to be looking for signs of hope amidst the very real fear and anxiety that we are experiencing.” Pastor Brian Beckstrom, Dean of Spiritual Life.

These are unprecedented times but our rostered leaders and members are rising to meet the challenge in innovative and faithful ways.  There is more than one way to “Show em Jesus”.

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.


Digital Ministry, Leadership


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