“Those first few days we were talking about closing church I remember thinking how will we tell everyone?” said Joe Holmberg, Communications Director. “Perhaps we will have services for one more week?” he thought. And then, in a what seemed like the blink of an eye, the state issued a stay at home order and St. Andrew’s was launched fully into a digital world, with online worship, online Bible studies and Facebook Live services.
3,500 households were called within the first week we left campus, and 937 prayers were added to the prayer list. Staff, church leaders and community wondered how long this would last and yearned to get back together.
It became apparent, in those early days that we needed more infrastructure to really be the church, outside of church. The Community Resource Center rallied to avoid disruption of support for community by routing the main phone number to cell phones, and in those first 6 weeks, we saw a 300% increase in phone calls from the same weeks the year before. Requests for rental assistance, short-term housing and basic needs came flowing in.
Online worship was already a part of our worship opportunity, but new features were added, like interactive chats, Facebook Watch parties, prayer rooms, all as we sought new ways to reach out to those we missed and those in need of hearing the healing power of Christ’s love.
After several weeks at home, we learned new ways to engage as students adapted to online confirmation and our Bible studies shifted to recorded messages and in-person zoom calls. We started worship in the courtyard for our friends at St. Andrew’s Village, and yet still we felt the call to reach further to find those who were not yet connected.
We added a dial-in worship number that broadcasted live services on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and on-demand recordings at other times in the week. FOX 9+ offered time on their channel and St. Andrew’s began broadcasting worship services at 2pm each Sunday, reaching even further to Proclaim, Live in Christ and Serve!
As our community suffered the effects of lost jobs and businesses, and concerns rose for our healthcare workers and first responders, St. Andrew’s launched a 30-days of prayer initiative, a commitment to praying for our community. The newspaper published an article on prayer and 30 St. Andrew’s members committed to praying the same prayer in various spots for our community. Together, we asked God to cast out fear and were reminded of the comfort that comes through collective and directed prayer. Watch St. Andrew’s 30-days of prayer video here.
And then, just as we seemed to be catching our collective breath, Minneapolis/St. Paul was thrust into global spotlight when George Floyd died in police custody. Video footage went viral of Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” as he was brutally held down in the streets of Minneapolis by a police officer. Protests ensued, business were destroyed, violence happened and awareness of rampant injustices towards our Black community were finally heard. St. Andrew’s rallied to walk in solidarity with our Black siblings, issuing this statement denouncing racism and doubled our efforts so that the whole world may know the healing power of Christ’s love. In addition to the curbside food delivery we were doing with Mahtomedi Food Shelf, we mobilized volunteers for personal care kits and food drives, partnering with Bethlehem Lutheran In the Midway to respond to areas affected by protests and riots.
In the meantime, the traditional projects we had planned for this time period carried on, but in new and interesting ways. We received generous offers to help with people sharing gifts of time and resources to redesign our website, create a member portal to facilitate registration and launch an online learning module– a tapestry of collective gifts by people we knew and people we have never met in person.
So today, we launch our new website, a digital front door to share St. Andrew’s with the world. We give thanks for volunteers Nicole Netland and Lisa Coy from St. Andrew’s and Idris from India, who helped create the design and infrastructure for our new pages. We give thanks for Cameron, a developer we never met from Johnson Ferry Church, for his support and assistance. And, we give thanks for Mike G., the 20-something Minneapolis guy who volunteered endless hours of coding for a church he had never been to, after we found him through a friend of a friend on LinkedIn.
So we adapt, we change, but above all we move forward together, because that’s who we are and who God calls us to be.