Dear Pastor,

Dear Congregational Leader,

Peace be with you. May you find a peace that surpasses all understanding in this current time of virus, restrictions, social distancing, and technology for communication.

Only a few weeks ago we each were fairly confident in our ability to connect with the people in our congregations and communities. This change was thrust upon us so quickly that the time to think intentionally about communicating in different ways has mainly been reactionary.

Well, we reacted and are now determining how to make the connections and communications proactive, more meaningful, more inclusive. I have a request to make of you, as you prayerfully consider your options and explore various platforms for electronic communication:

  • Please do not forget to include the people in your congregations and communities who do not have access to technology.
  • Please remember to include those who communicate in non-traditional ways.
  • Please include those who are shut-ins, such as residents of nursing homes, supported living, homeless shelters, psychiatric facilities, and prisons.
  • Don’t leave out those who have disabilities or are elderly and do not understand the technology.
  • Please include the people who live in poverty and cannot afford the technology;  many of them no longer have access to computers in libraries to connect via e-mail.

How can you and your communications team intentionally include people who are often forgotten or who seem too difficult to include?

  • A direct telephone call to those with telephones.
  • A telephone call to the front desk of a facility with a request to be connected to the person.
  • An email to the last known email address.
  • Put pen to paper and write them a note to post in the mail.
  • Search for them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
  • Contact the chaplain’s office at their facility.
  • Send them a card addressed to them at the shelter they usually frequent.
  • Contact the person who usually gives them a ride to your weekly services to find out if  they have connected recently and how they did so.
  • Print out sermons and mail them to shut ins.
  • Make CDs of the service, or portions of it, and mail or drop them off at people’s homes, using safe social distancing practices.
  • If you know their address than drop off a book, puzzle, game, flowers from the garden, etc., using safe social distancing practices.
  • Ask congregants to call and share the audio of Live Stream and other gatherings over their telephone with those who cannot access them.
  • Ask a volunteer to verbally describe images used in PowerPoint presentations that are part of the on-line service experience for those who are visually impaired or who cannot view the screen. Google how to do this.
  • Provide ASL interpretation, transcription service or closed captioning.

Friends, thank you. In my Christian tradition the inclusion of all members of your community is part of being sent out as Jesus was sent by his Father; He included those on the fringes. Indeed, he often deliberately sought them out for relationship.

Thank you for embracing technology as a means of serving your congregations and for sharing the good news of your faith.  Thank you for all that you are learning and implementing. I ask only, sister and brother, that you consider and include all of your people.

Are there things that I did not include in my suggestions that you have done to reach out to people that you would like to share with us? Please, do so in the comments. I would love to hear your ideas. Thank you!

Peace be with you.