The shelter in place order has changed the way we all communicate but it has been a special challenge for seniors or “seasoned” members as they are called at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Bronx. Some seniors had already been videoconferencing with their families, reading email and surfing the web. Many others had not used a computer or an iPhone at all. Redeemer worked with their seasoned members one-on-one using the telephone, Facetime, and Skype to help them overcome computer problems and learn video conferencing on Zoom so that church groups could continue to meet. Already established groups such as WRISTS (Women Rejoicing In Service To Society), LEGS (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in Service), LIPS ( Ladies In Prayer and Service), and EYES (Energetic Youth Engaged in Service) helped their members become familiar with videoconferencing. Group members even wore special t-shirts during their videoconferencing meetings just as parishioners typically wear clothing that is the liturgical color of the day for each Liturgy. Within two months, all the seasoned members were fluent in surfing the web and Zoom videoconferencing. A biweekly meeting also has been conducted via Zoom during which people could discuss how they were coping with the pandemic and where they needed help.
The groups also helped their members learn how to use the AARP website, Lutheran Hour Ministries’ website, and other sites that could help them while they were at home and even assisted them in signing up with digital exercise programs through Redeemer’s exercise auxiliary, FEET (Fun and Educational Exercising Together).
One way that Redeemer kept her members together was by creating a picture gallery of artwork done by church members. During Zoom Services of the Word, gallery pictures have been shown digitally to the parish.
FEET (Fun and Educational Exercising Together) continued to sponsor prayer walks that including walking to people who could not come out to church services and let them know that they were not forgotten.
Redeemer members from WRISTS (Women Rejoicing In Service To Society) wrote letters to people in nursing homes. The recipients were not people who were known to the ladies but people who needed a lift as they were separated from their loved ones and family members.
Some church members who worked in COVID-19 wards in the hospitals were able to see worship services broadcast online and bring devotional items, live Bible studies, and other prayer booklets to those in those wards. Redeemer members prayed with many in those wards at the hours of their deaths as the patients’ family members were not allowed to be admitted.
Members of Redeemer who could come outside met while keeping appropriate physical distance. Instead of the typical hugs, they pressed the soles of their shoes together: soul to soul.