Before St. Stephen Lutheran Church established a building at 537 Bolton Street more than 40 years ago, people would gather for outdoor “worship in the pines” on the property. This month, outside worship will take place again on Sunday, August 9 – a reflection on the 2020 pandemic rather than a nod to nostalgia.
Safely-distanced outside worship was the preference of 75% of respondents to a survey asking if people would attend outdoor or indoor services. Worship in the pines will be held in the partially-shaded back parking lot and those who attend must wear masks, bring their own chairs, keep social distance from people who are not family members, and pre-register, since only 40 people will be able to gather.
“For our congregation, part of ‘loving your neighbor’ is following the public health guidelines that keep us all safe,” noted St. Stephen Pastor Joseph Graumann. “After a great deal of time without gathering, it will be a joy to see each other face-to-face in a way that’s both safe and enjoyable.”
Ushers will offer hand sanitizer and guide worshipers to seating locations. Bathrooms will be available on a limited basis. Worship begins at 10:00 am and will be what is known as Service of the Word, without Holy Communion, although a committee is looking into communion options for the future.
Everyone who attends – members, friends, and visitors – must pre-register by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/outdoor-worship-registration-113524466736. By reserving a “ticket,” registrants will provide important information so that, in the unlikely event of someone falling ill, the church will be able to give critical information to public health professionals.
The outdoor services will be live-streamed on YouTube for those who prefer to participate from home. St. Stephen Lutheran Church hopes to continue to hold outside services on alternate weeks with the live-stream option, and maintain Zoom worship on the opposite weeks.
The church building has been closed since March, while church services have continued using YouTube and Zoom. As Zoom worship developed, piano accompaniment from the music director and participation by readers and an assisting minister added more elements of a traditional church service. Parishioners also have gathered virtually for coffee hour, book club, youth group, and ministry team meetings.
There will be a food collection for the Hudson Food Pantry on the outdoor worship Sundays. Some needed items include hearty soups, white tuna, cereal, baked beans, and packaged rice and pasta side dishes.
For more information about St. Stephen Lutheran Church, visit the church’s Facebook page or website, www.saintstephenlutheran.com. 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.