A COVID19 Moment: The blessing of partnership with our SDB Conference

This article is written by Pastor Nate Crandall of the Milton SDB Church. Hope you enjoy this picture of how God is at work in and through one of our local SDB churches participating in the SDB Church Revitalization Grant program. 

In a moment the world was turned upside down. I remember the week when things shifted for me. On Wednesday, March 11th I was listening to a college professor announce that he was cancelling in person classes for the rest of the semester and going to online instruction. It was unreal and shocking to me that cancelling in person classes was being talked about, but it quickly woke me up to the fact that we were not in Kansas anymore.

It was then that we began to respond to this ever-changing situation with communication to the church for that Sabbath, March 14th, and what turned out to be our last in person worship service until June 13th when we met together in an outdoor worship service at Camp Wakonda. Since that coming week was our spring break week, we had the time to get our act together as far as the shift to online ministry was concerned.

My experience with online video communication had not been very positive up until that point. However, I heard that a youth group in our local area had met online on Sunday, March 15th using Zoom, so I decided to check it out. I was so impressed that almost immediately I paid for a year’s subscription and began to plan for our ministries, small groups and Bible studies to begin using it. We had enough overlap of groups wanting to use the licensed version (which was available for an unlimited amount of time instead of the 40 minute limit on the unlicensed version) that we purchased a second license to accommodate all the groups.

Now three months later with things beginning to open back up, we are still using both licenses nearly every day. We anticipate that some of our groups will continue to use Zoom and will not gather in person going forward. Others will meet in person and will use Zoom to accommodate those who live from a distance. Upon reflection, our ministries really did not skip a beat. However, we did have lots technical problems to solve along the way which always made life fun and interesting.

Meanwhile on another ministry front, we had been talking about doing livestream for Sabbath worship gatherings for several years, but it had never reached the point where the cost to get it up and running was able to fit our budget. When everything went online, we once again took up the conversation, and it became clear to me and to our technical director that livestream was no longer an option but rather a necessity. This led to some creative solutions that allowed us to not need the large dollar amounts of buying three new HD cameras. Instead we were able to retrofit our existing camera system (which by the way was purchased with help from a grant from the Conference, thank you VERY much Conference people!) so that once we gather again for worship in the church sanctuary starting on June 20th, we will be able to do a weekly livestream. When money allows we will upgrade our cameras, but for the moment we are able to do what we need to do.

With the reality of this moment requiring that a good percentage of our people will stay at home, the livestream is definitely a necessity for ministry. As other churches have seen, we also have expanded our online reach during this time, and so livestreaming will be an added vehicle to those who have joined us and will pass on our ministry to those they know.

Our thanks to the General Conference for the Church Revitalization Grant which has helped support our shift to online ministry. I am grateful for their proactive response and support. I believe that in the days ahead we will need this skill of quickly responding to rapidly changing ministry needs more than ever. It is encouraging to be supported by those SDB leaders who have a heart and a vision for the gospel to advance through the local church.

I am also encouraged by the adaptability and commitment to the Lord which I have seen in our people here in Milton. This wave of change could have knocked us flat, but we have risen to the challenge. I also believe that we will see the impact of this shift in ministry in powerful ways in the time to come.

As I reflect on what God is doing during this unprecedented time, there is at least one thing that stands out to me. We have learned that we need each other. Thank you Conference leadership for recognizing that we needed to connect in a different way during this season and being willing to help!

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