COVID-19: St. Matthew's UMC is Embracing Joy with Seniors

Updated: Apr 3


Reverend Virginia Wall of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church shares the struggles seniors are experiencing during this time of social distancing, and practical ways to keep this demographic engaged with the church, as well as one another.

"My challenge is to help [seniors] to see hope in the midst of this pandemic and to let them know that we as the church community, especially myself and some others, we are here to help them through this storm."


Resources Mentioned:

St. Matthew's United Methodist Church

Facebook Live

Zoom

Guidelines from CDC for Social Distancing

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:


Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. And today I'm joined by Reverend Wall with the St Matthew United Methodist Church in North Houston. She is a senior pastor to a wonderful congregation that's over two thirds of the congregation is over 60. But she is also an amazing, a woman filled with wisdom and joy and I think you'll see that today. So I'm looking forward to talking with her. Virginia, how you doing today,


Virginia Wall:

Tommy, I'm doing fine. It's a pleasure to be with you today.


Tommy Rosson:

Thank you. Tell me a little bit about, especially with an older congregation, tell me, what this has been like to have the COVID-19 in our community.


Virginia Wall:

It has been a combination of anxiety, some learning curves for us, some joy in the midst of a crisis to say, how do we stay connected with each other and love each other from a distance, learning curves along the way, but we are weathering the storm.


Tommy Rosson:

You're seeing anxiety and fear in your congregants?


Virginia Wall:

Oh, definitely. You know, folks are not sure how long they are going to have to stay indoors. They are not happy, of course, with the fact that they cannot come together and fellowship with each other. When you have a congregation such as mine. They look forward to come in on Tuesday and playing, you know, chicken foot and, and doing the quilting things together. That's their socialization and those things have been interrupted. So it's difficult for them. It's also scary with the fact that you hear on the news that they are the most vulnerable population. So all of those things coupled with the fact that they are not able to meet with their family members the way they would love to, all of those things have contributed to heightened anxiety within them. So my challenge is to help them to see hope in the midst of this pandemic and to let them know that we as the church community, especially myself and some others, we are here to help them through this storm.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. I think you were telling me earlier that, you know, you've now been doing, online services exclusively now for three weeks and that you're seeing more and more of your congregates slowly adapt over and embrace these new media, whether it's Facebook Live or Zoom calls with their families.


Virginia Wall:

Well, we decided to do Facebook live. when we realize that we will address for meeting in public. And the first Sunday we've done this, three weeks, the first Sunday or membership, online was like 22 and then the second Sunday went up to like 45. And I'm so happy that yesterday we hit 60 and I was like, wow, you know, but it hasn't been, and it's still, we still have challenges along the way. some of the seniors, they are not accustomed to using a lot of this technology. So we had to be very meticulous about having people guide them step by step along the way. And I think I shared with you my greatest joy yesterday was to see one of my members put on the comment line. "Virginia I got through" what she was talking about was that for the first two Sundays she said it was so frustrating. "Virginia, I couldn't get on. And then when I got on I could see you, but I, I couldn't hear anything." Well, we were able to partner one of our younger members with this member and she walked her through it and she was able to get on. She was able to hear the music to hear the message and she said, I am feeling so good, pastor. I think I'm going to go take a walk after service. And that was, that's the joy that we are working with to get to people in the midst of this, you know, interruption of life.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. That's great. What are some of the other ways that you're leaning in to loving on your congregates and community during the season?


Virginia Wall:

Well, I am intentional to call, you know, especially my senior members. I am calling them once a week. That's my commitment to touch basis, to see how they're doing. If there's anything we can do where there may be some gaps and therefore I can connect them with others who I know are safely able to go out and to help them meet those needs. You know, I told you that we usually have a monthly pancake breakfast and that is another great opportunity to reach out, not only to our members but to those in the community. And we have, you know, so many seniors that attend that pancake breakfast. So, you know, given the new guidelines and new restrictions of state, and we thought that as a church in a, we had the opportunity to still be able to serve that meal in those safely, use it, the guidelines from CDC and local officials. So we extended that invitation out and it's coming up this Saturday, by the way, it's going to be from 8:30 to 10:30. And, if people want to get some fresh air from being cooped up inside, they could walk and just pick up a meal to go, or they could drive by and we will safely put it in the car, no contact keeping the same distance kind of thing.


So, those are some of the ways that we are also trying to let them know that we love you. We know this is painful, this is stressful for all of us, but especially the older population and if they want to, you know, be able to come and just have that for a moment, just pick up and leave, that's okay for them to do that. So, we are working on that.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. You know, especially now that we know that this is not going to be over anytime soon and we are in the, Easter's coming around the corner. And you've got so many, you know, families that are, especially in your congregation that are worried about getting outside or, yet they also, this is such an important time for them. What are some of the things you're doing in that area?


Virginia Wall:

What we have decided to do is to safely make some, you know, Palm Sunday is coming up soon and then Easter. So we have decided we will make some Palm Sunday Easter packets and we will you know, follow all the safety guidelines and we will put upon in there we are also celebrating communion for us, the first Sunday in the month. So we have decided to purchase some small communion packets. We are going to make this care packet and we are offering the members the opportunity to drop it by their homes, you know, and not going inside and we will let them know we are coming, we can drop it at the door and they can just receive it. We are making sure we wear all our gloves and everything and prepare in those packets. It's a way of saying that even though we are not able to be with each other, we are still thinking about ways that we can continue to celebrate this spiritual community of loving each other, caring for each other. And encouraging each other in this best season that's coming up, celebrated a light, the resurrection life. We want people to know that in the midst of a crisis, that resurrection life is still available to them. So that's what we are doing.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. That's wonderful. I love that you're finding every opportunity you can to, especially in a time that is so scary for many of the people in your congregation to make sure you bring that joy into their life. And I can only imagine what it's like to get a phone call from you once a week. I'd love to talk to you once a week, just to make my day better. So, anything else that you would want to say to the church community as you think about going through this?


Virginia Wall:

Well, you know for of us, we've been hearing this hashtag we are in this together and that is so true. We are in this together simply because, you know, it's a crisis that is impacting people at all levels. And the church has the best time, I believe, uh, to reach out, to share the love of Christ and to let people know that they're not alone. Um, I know as so many of the other churches, you know, communities, not all of us have the financial, you know, comfort of saying, you know, we are going to weather this storm and we are going to do okay. But I trust the savior that I trust and I believe all of my colleagues and laity in the, in the church community, we trust the God that says that if you trust me, you will see how my grace will come into your life.


And somewhere somehow, you know, things are going to get better. You know, the first Sunday, you know, I shared with them, I said we had to turn to Jesus in this time because it's so natural for us to, you know, to allow the anxiety to come up and overwhelm us and all of focus can be taken off of Jesus and look at what's going on around us. But I think when we keep that focus on Jesus, he will allow us with his spirit to see different ways that we could navigate our way through this, you know, challenge that is before us because that's what it is. It's one of the greatest challenges that we have ever had to face. So I said to my community, folks, hold onto Jesus. Keeping a focus on Jesus. You know, not to deny what's going on because what's going on is real. But he promises us that, you know, he will reach out and he will touch us and he will help us. And I believe that.


Tommy Rosson:

Amen. That's a great, that is great. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Virginia Wall:

Oh, it has been my pleasure and it has been my, you know, just great joy to come on, you know, Houston Responds on Tuesday and Thursday and you know, sometimes just to hear what people are dealing with so I know how I could be praying for them too in the midst of that. But thank you all for the, you know, the wonderful work that you all are doing in your ministry with Houston Responds.


Tommy Rosson:

Well, thank you very much. Pastors, church leaders, if you would like more of these faith leader insights, you can go to Houstonresponds.org/covid-19. and they will be there as other resources and other information for how churches or how local congregations are dealing with this or, resources for your church as well. So thank you for joining us today.


Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

SUBSCRIBE to our e-news for updates, resources and more.

  • LinkedIn - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle

CONTACT A COALITION

CLICK HERE to find your Houston Responds coalition to contact directly.

© Copyright 2020 | Houston Responds is a 501 (c)(3). 

CONTACT HOUSTON RESPONDS
PHONE: 281-201-3999