The collegiate ministry students at UKirk Greensboro can help
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The eventual idea to provide Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations with a video worship service for use after Easter this year came to the Rev. Katie Barrett Todd in the playroom of her house, which is just above the garage.
It was May 2020. She and her husband, also a pastor, were three months into the pandemic. And she was editing yet another weekly worship service video, this time for her husband, Mason.
“We were both talking about how exhausted we were,” she said, “and how exhausted all our clergy friends were.”
As the campus minister and executive director of UKirk Greensboro, Todd had been sending weekly messages to her students, all of whom had been sent home because of COVID. She’d also been providing online worship to churches in her presbytery so that other pastors could have a Sunday off.
“It’s so much more work recording worship,” she said. “You become a critic, with a tendency to say, ‘Let me record that again.’”
In that moment of exhaustion, Todd an idea: What if UKirk took the worship service they’d done live at the end of February 2020 — right before COVID hit — and turned it into a video worship service? That way the churches that used it could enable their exhausted pastors and staff to take a Sunday off.
Her students loved the idea. They recorded their pieces of the worship from home on their phones. Todd preached the sermon and edited the worship service together, which eight churches in the presbytery used. Each congregation sent UKirk Greensboro a remuneration of around $150, the honorarium the churches would normally pay for pulpit supply.
That’s when Todd realized that this could be the fundraising idea she was looking for as UKirk Greensboro was facing a 20% budget cut in both 2020 and 2021. So, in August, when one of her returning students asked, “Could we do another worship service?” she said, “Yes!” They began planning worship that churches could use on the Sunday after Christmas.
“The idea was to fill as many pulpits and give as many pastors as possible a day off,” she said. “And I call that Sunday the ‘International Associate Pastor Preaching Day.’”
When one of the churches that had used UKirk Greensboro’s first service asked if it could use the service for the first Sunday in January, Todd decided to provide a communion element as well, since the first Sunday of the month is when many PC(USA) churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper. That way churches would have a choice to use the service, which featured familiar Christmas hymns, on December 27 or January 3.
After sending instructions to the students along with new microphones to use with their phones, Todd said she wanted to “up their game” after she’d made a social media post on a PC(USA) leaders Facebook group.
“I basically asked if [churches] were looking to fill their pulpit after Christmas,” she said, “and that these services would be available. From there it became a virtual word-of-mouth. If clergy saw others asking about pulpit supply for after Christmas, they would tag me, or say, ‘Let UKirk Greensboro lead that day.’”
In all, 49 large and small congregations from Salem Presbytery and 20 states outside North Carolina used the video worship service, which can be viewed here. Congregations using the video stretched from Corvallis, Oregon east to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
One of the things the Rev. Kyle Goodman, lead pastor and head of staff at Alamance Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, appreciated about the service was that he didn’t have to worry about anything on the days following Christmas. Because it was a complete service, everyone including the church’s technical crew got to have a Sunday off.
“Myself, the associate pastor, the liturgist, the pianist, the choir director and the camera person were all able to be at home with our families,” he said. “And the congregation always enjoys having Katie as pastor supply. That Sunday she preached to more people than anyone in our denomination.”
Goodman, who is president of the UKirk Greensboro Board, praised Todd and her students for putting together such a service. He said their level of professionalism shouldn’t be understated.
“It looks so crisp,” he said. “The students are tech experts. We should rely on their skills, which are native to them. And for 10 months Katie has been learning how to put these services together.”
The campus ministry has received over $7,000 from churches who used the Christmas services.
For Todd, one of the most exciting things about creating the services — alongside the fact that she might make up much of the shortfall to her campus ministry budget — is how encouraging churches have been to her and her students. She asked each church questions to get their feedback on the service. And most of the comments to her questions included words similar to these: “I just want to thank you. What a great idea! It’s such a gift.”
Todd took the words of gratitude from all of the churches and compiled them into a 5-feet-by-7-feet poster featuring the UKirk Greensboro logo, which she gave to each of her students.
“They can see they’re a gift of God,” she said. “Words like ‘beautiful,’ ‘thoughtful’ and ‘inclusive.’ Now they can see them and use them, knowing it was more than just me saying it.”
Along with a UKirk Greensboro alumni and 11 students, Todd is now creating a video worship service for congregations to use on April 11 or 18, the first two Sundays after Easter. It will be available by the end of March. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Categories: Collegiate Ministries, Faith & Worship, Partner Associations
Tags: alamance presbyterian church, COVID, elvice, partner associations, rev. katie todd, rev. kyle goodman, salem presbytery, ukirk, ukirk greensboro
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Ministries: Partner Associations, Evangelism, Office of Christian Formation, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Worship