First United Methodist Church’s upcoming hybrid service will be first indoors since April 2020

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Service scheduled for Sunday, July 4 at 9:45 a.m.

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (June 29, 2021) – The congregation at First United Methodist Church is used to having church outdoors, a tradition they’ve adopted since Easter of 2020. Starting this Sunday, however, parishioners will have the choice of participating in the weekly service indoors or listening to the service outside.

Parking lot preaching

Last year when the pandemic shut down most churches, First United invited parishioners back in-person much sooner that other churches in the area — though only to their parking lot.

“In April 2020, we were out in the parking lot with my PA system,” said First United Methodist Church pastor Dave Price. “Even with the bad weather in Chicago, we only missed two Sundays due to bad weather.”

First United Methodist Church made adjustments to their traditional Christmas Eve service in 2020. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Parking lot parishioners largely stayed in their cars, though on Sundays with favorable weather, lawn chairs have been brought to arms. The outdoor service has greatly increased the church’s pet parishioners as well.

“We probably have the largest pet congregation coming to church in the United Methodist denomination, with a lot of people bringing their dogs. … We probably have over a dozen dogs at some services,” Price said.

Changing to hybrid

Price said a recent poll of the church indicated that roughly three-quarters of the congregation wanted to resume church in the building, with the remaining quarter preferring to stay outdoors.

The church is hoping to cater to both crowds by having an indoor service with masks and social distancing that will be broadcast on the PA system outdoors to the parking lot.

Price acknowledges that there are differing opinions about what strategy is best, but he’s been impressed with the way his congregation has handled them.

“There’s still a commonality and common sense,” he said, adding that the United Methodist denomination is doing its best to adopt principles of Methodist church father John Wesley: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love of God.”

Price added that he believes most of his congregation has been vaccinated. He said, “If you’re coming indoors, we’d appreciate you’ve been vaccinated and still follow common sense rules of social distancing and masks.”

As far as Price knows, no congregants at First United Methodist have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

Appreciating the changes

Besides the addition of pets to their outdoor congregation, First United Methodist has also experienced other positives during the pandemic. Price mentioned the numerous food drives that were hosted in their parking lot, as well as the neighborhood outreach the PA system has allowed for.

First United Methodist
Volunteers gather in the First United Methodist Church parking lot before distributing over 1,000 boxes of food at a We Are Lansing Food Drive in October 2020. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“Our neighborhood’s hearing our worship service. When we play Amazing Grace, they’re hearing Amazing Grace in our neighborhood for that hour on Sunday morning — and that’s outside of our four walls. That’s been kind of special, too,” Price said.

The first hybrid service will take place at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 4. First United Methodist Church is located at 18420 Burnham Avenue in Lansing.

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