Although the doors are closed and there are no Sunday services at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, the church is open online five days a week, with additional opportunities. Whether parishioners are looking for a sermon, prayer, coffee hour, or even a book club meeting, it is available, with both Zoom and YouTube platforms.
In addition, parishioners are also using “old school” methods to make sure, although people can’t congregate, they can still feel part of a congregation. Easter cards were mailed to everyone, and now the church council is contacting all members by phone, email or note to say, “How are you doing?”
“In a time of physical distancing, community and togetherness are as vital as ever,” notes Pastor Joseph Graumann. “As a church, we are best when we are connecting people, and our focus is connection. This is why we provide weekly opportunities for ‘coffee hour,’ which is a time just to check in and chat. Our worship videos can be accessed at your leisure, and they connect you to a millennia-long tradition of faith and hope.”
Pastor Graumann began his weekly “Sermon Without Germin’ series on YouTube on Sunday, March 22, where he discusses the weekly gospel lesson not only with its original relevance, but connects it to today’s challenges with COVID-19. The April 19 message featured as guest speaker James Hazelwood, Bishop of the New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Also on YouTube were weekly messages from Pastor Graumann for Wednesdays in Lent. Those have continued, and both Wednesday and Sunday messages can be viewed at any time on YouTube.
For Easter Sunday, St. Stephen Lutheran Church held a live Zoom service, with prayers, sermon, and even festive organ music played by music director Stan Hanson. The small church attracted at least 80 people, more than the typical live Sunday worship. Committees/teams, the confirmation class, book clubs, and the youth group have been meeting via Zoom.
“Our youth group Zoom meetings provide a space for kids to hang out and have fun,” Pastor Graumann said, noting that one of the activities has been Pictionary via Zoom.
The Sunday offering will change from YouTube to Zoom in May, “with worship on Zoom, led entirely from our homes. With our building closed, we celebrate Christ’s presence in all creation, especially in our homes and our hearts,” the pastor added. To access any of the church’s programs, go to the calendar on the website, www.saintstephenlutheran.com, and click the appropriate link.
For more information about St. Stephen Lutheran Church, visit www.saintstephenlutheran.com or the church’s Facebook page. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org) . The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton.