Wednesday morning, I met with the worship team – Hannah Garrity, Keith Grogg, Ann Laird Jones, Heather Scott, Carol Steele, and Eric Wall, as well as seminary interns John Daniel DeBevoise and Brett Eisenhauer – that has planned and directed this summer’s virtual Sunday morning services in Montreat. Carol, who leads the group, wanted to gather us together to review the summer and discuss ways in which this year’s online experience might impact future worship planning.
Over the course of the summer, the team learned a lot about the challenges of delivering worship online, and gradually developed a familiarity and comfort level with the technology and with the varied beats and rhythms of worshipping by Zoom. Having the easiest role each Sunday gave me time to observe the team’s growing competency and confidence from week to week. (As I’ve already stated in this space, what the worship team accomplished from a standing start in early June over the following weeks was remarkable.)
Some Sundays we worshipped live online beginning at 10:30 a.m., while on other Sundays, for technical and scheduling reasons, we uploaded a pre-recorded service. The differing production prompted differing participation patterns. Live worship, for example, attracted a congregation that logged on early and tended to worship through to the end of the service, from prelude to postlude. Pre-recorded services, on the other hand, attracted significantly larger viewership because they were posted on our website for the full day on Sunday, making it more accessible in general. A significant percentage of these viewers, however, tended to log on for just a portion of the service – usually the sermon – but not stick around for the entire service.
One factor in the team’s favor this summer: because typical conference and recreation programming was limited by the coronavirus, various team members were able to devote more time and energy to worship this summer. Members acknowledged that devoting so many hours to preparation and execution of worship, as this summer’s team did, would be tough to replicate in future years given the strenuous demands of a full conference and recreation schedule taking place during the week.
Looking ahead, the group affirmed its commitment to a return to in-person services in Anderson Auditorium as soon as possible. We embrace the understanding that gathering the community together for worship in Anderson is a central focus of our lives together in Montreat and in the church. Team members expressed eagerness for the first “safe Sunday” to arrive as soon as possible. (It bears mentioning that the summer offering collected from the online services was down substantially, another reason to return to Anderson asap!)
Finally, the team expressed thanks to our ten invited preachers for their preparation, collegial spirit and proclamation of the Word this summer, and by extension we thank the committee of volunteers whose recommendations led us to those invitations. This was a challenging summer to preach “in Montreat,” and we’re grateful to the committee and to all of the voices in our constituency who help us find great preaching for our summer series each year.
Overall, the worship team expressed enthusiasm for providing online worship content for virtual congregants in future years. Leaving to the future whether that content would come in live streaming worship or recorded offerings, we celebrated that this summer’s worship gathered congregations that stretched beyond the geographical area we typically serve. Regardless of whether we are gathered in person, online, or by a combination of the two, we will strive to ensure that our worship keeps us oriented toward God, toward each other and toward creation, for the good of it all.
This weekend bringing to close our official summer season, there are two remaining gatherings to bring to your attention:
This Sunday morning’s final worship service will be led by the Reverend Amy Starr Redwine, pastor and head of staff at the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. We will hold communion as part of the worship service, and we encourage you to have some bread and a libation on hand to participate with us.
Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m., Eric Wall will lead our final hymn sing of the summer. I want to thank Eric and all those who planned and led our online hymn sings this summer and those who joined in. Bless you all!
And bless each and every one of you for the role you played in helping Montreat carry out a fulfilling summer of mission and ministry in the midst of all that surrounds us, and for your continuing engagement as we set a course for the seasons to come. On behalf of all of our staff and volunteers, I am so grateful.
More to come!
The Weekly Rundown | Sunday, August 9 – Saturday, August 15
Sunday, August 9
- Summer Worship Series | 10:30 a.m. The last service of the summer! View previous services here. Learn about online offering here.
- Hymn Sing | 7 p.m. Last one of the summer! Download PDF. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for program instructions if you have not already received an email
Wednesday, August 12
- Grab and Go – Heat and Eat at Assembly Inn. Place orders by noon this day – Sign up to receive the Community Announcements for information
Thursday, August 13
- Grab and Go – Heat and Eat pick-up day at Assembly Inn
- The Montreat Store hours | Mon. – Sat. 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Go in person (masks required) or call them at 828.669.5298 to place an order.
- Ten Thousand Villages hours | Mon.-Sat. 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sun. 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- Campground reservations open
- Summer Sabbath at Assembly Inn reservations open through August 16