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Creative giving catches on during coronavirus pandemic

Some Presbyterians are giving for the whole year to shore up their church’s finances

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

St. John Presbyterian Church, 1307 E. Elm St., in New Albany, Indiana, is a field education placement for students at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. (Contributed photo)

NEW ALBANY, Indiana — The COVID-19 pandemic is encouraging new ways of giving among Presbyterians. Teachers, nurses, physical therapists, small business owners, professors, technology workers, lawyers and older people on fixed incomes are giving faithfully to their churches and worshiping communities during this challenging time of virtual church.

At St. John Presbyterian Church in New Albany, Ind., some members — of their own accord — have chosen to give their full-year pledge up front, said the Rev. C. Allen Colwell. “Pledges have been rolling in steadily. Half-dozen or so come straight from bank accounts, but others are faithfully mailed in every week. It’s humbling, really,” Colwell said.

Members and friends at St. John Presbyterian Church in New Albany, Indiana, are faithful with their giving. During this time of “virtual church,” some are giving in advance to strengthen finances for ministry and mission. (Photo by C. Allen Colwell)

St. John celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016. The church can trace its beginnings to eight members who formed the congregation, which was then Union Church of New Albany and Jeffersonville, in 1816. A year later, Union Church was renamed First Presbyterian Church of New Albany, which was the first church in Indiana to have a Sunday school. Twenty years later, in 1837, the congregation divided to establish Second Presbyterian Church at Third and Main streets, where they worshiped until the current St. John Presbyterian was completed at 1307 E. Elm St. in 1890.

Since about mid-March members of St. John have been worshiping together through services on Facebook Live and YouTube.

The Rev. C. Allen Colwell

“May we draw on the Holy Spirit to do what we can for one another, whether it’s by wearing masks and keeping to our X’s [while shopping], making phone calls, sending cards or text messages, checking in on one another, or simply staying home and being faithful in prayer,” Colwell said.

At least four members of St. John are making masks for members and others who need them, he said.

“One good thing about this virus scare is that it reminds us that we are in this life together — rich or poor, Christian or non-Christian, American, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, Korean — the whole world has been brought to a standstill together,” he said. “For me, when it comes down to it, if only for a brief moment in time, we are all one race — and that race is humankind.”

One change that Colwell hopes will come from all the social distancing is that people may become even more grateful for “community.” He said, “I even pray for a revival of people who realize how much they miss having a church community.”

St. John Presbyterian Church in New Albany, Indiana, celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016. During the pandemic, services are being held via Facebook Live and YouTube. (Contributed photo)

Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, Colwell said, it may be similar to the beginning of the Drew Carey TV show, where everyone pours out onto the streets at 5 p.m., singing and dancing to “Cleveland Rocks!”

“I just imagine that’s how we’re going to be when we can all finally leave our homes,” he said, adding that it’s tough for a Cincinnati kid to use a Cleveland reference, but that’s what comes to mind.

“More than ever, I believe we need to see ourselves as brothers and sisters,” Colwell said. “More than ever, I believe we need to overcome our prejudices and biases, and just learn to come together. More than ever, I believe the world needs each other, and if it took a global pandemic for us to realize it, then so be it.”

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