We were very excited early this year to have a new couple ask to join our church DURING LOCKDOWN! In September we had prayerfully and bravely decided to relocate our church to a storefront location on the main road into Niagara-on-the-Lake, after several years in a former school hidden away from the public. Due to the pandemic, the rent at the new place was half of the market value and we were able to get a very flexible lease. We packed up everything within less than six weeks, did renovations, and had our signs installed on the new rental building by November. We had just started having small gatherings again prior to Ontario announcing another lockdown. In-person services were going well, but we were disappointed to have to let go of the momentum we were re-gaining after the move.
Since last March we have been hosting a pre-recorded message every Sunday on Facebook and YouTube called GateWay Online. We've had a ton of positive feedback regarding our unique format and the practical nature of the content. There have been many weeks that our little church of 50 has seen over 1,000 views of our Sunday message. However, the highlight one month was when a local high school teacher and his wife contacted us through our website and asked if they could get information about how to join our church. They understood that we weren't meeting in person because of COVID, but they had seen our signs and checked us out online and felt this was the place for them. That next Sunday we were launching our 2021 theme via a Zoom meeting instead of our typical Facebook and YouTube premiere. I invited them to join our “service” and they did, along with four other families who don't attend GateWay regularly. The new family and the others had made the brave leap from attending on Facebook, to attending a live Zoom meeting to get to know other people who call GateWay “home.” It was amazing!
Our faith was being built up knowing that we are on the right path and that with a little extra effort, we can start connecting our online church community with the people who attend GateWay in person (even before we open up the church doors again). Following that Sunday's service we received immediate feedback and thanks from all of our visitors. The new couple also signed up for our "I am GateWay" introduction to membership class being held online in February. The connections we have been able to develop further online are incredible.
God has been so faithful during this season. Finances are tight and the emotional strain is ridiculous, but we know we will overcome, and dare I say "we will be better for it" when this pandemic is over. My prayer is that we won't forget to continue to be innovative and courageous, once the pressure is off, and we are back to being in-person. There is a world needing Jesus and a community of believers to belong to. We've been given this great opportunity to connect with people in their households each and every day, along with a place in our community where people can see the church at work in practical ways. Let's stay focused. Keep being brave, and see God glorified because of it.
Photos courtesy Michelle Mercer.