‘The Resurrection is Still with Us’

‘The Resurrection is Still with Us’

April 03, 2020

“We’ve got to acknowledge that this is Holy Week, and that it’s going to be different, but that we’re still going to go through it together.”  That’s how Rev. Nate Nims, Senior Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines  describes the sacred journey from Palm Sunday to Easter.   

“It feels very different, very different,” Nims said, “especially with such a liturgical week and a week that is so connected to being together.” For example, “It’s very odd  not to have that fully immersive setting of waving the palms together or  to think about Maundy Thursday and not have that tangible element of the  foot  washing.” 

Click here to listen to the Iowa Conference Conversations podcast with Rev. Nate Nims 

Grace Des Moines is doing something to  overcome  being  separated, particularly as Holy Week begins. “We've got palms that kids are coloring…little activity sheets that we're sending out to kids and then as the  parents  want,  we'll share some pictures and have a collage of those images for Palm Sunday. There'll be a point during the service where everyone can wave them and celebrate that way.”  

Holy Week and Easter

A potluck meal had been planned  for Maundy Thursday. “Instead of being together in the fellowship hall,” Nims notes,  “we'll have a bit of a digital potluck where we'll have people share recipes in the comments  box  and share pictures of what they're eating and interact with the meal that way.  There will be  some devotionals that  can  be  home conversations.”  

Good Friday can be a very lonely experience,  filled with a sense of isolation,  of being forgotten. Grace Des Moines is doing something to overcome that. “One  of the things that we got started with early on was what we called  “bridge the gap”  groups. There are groups of three to five folks that selected their preferred mode of communication.  We have some people that started text messaging groups, some people that are doing video conferences,  some that are doing phone calls with one another.  People sort of  self-identified  by  the  mode of communication that they thought would be most helpful for them.”  One good that’s come out of the “bridge the gap” groups is that people who didn’t know each other before  are getting to know  one another  in a new way and connect.  “Those small groups are covenanting to check in with one another, around the question, ‘How is it with your soul?’” 

Though Easter is April 12, the  Easter experience will be sometime in the future,  once the Coronavirus crisis subsides and the congregation can gather together again.  “Whenever we came back into our sanctuary and we back together again in worship  we would call that an Easter service.”  Witnessing to the Resurrection, however, will be  “in the here and now.”   “The song that kept coming to mind for me,” Nims said, “is Easter People Raise Your Voices…every day to us is  Easter, with its Resurrection song…we’re going to lean into that and  celebrate  Easter  every  Sunday.” 

Online presence surges

The intentional  virtual  connection  to  its congregation and  a wider community has brought about a phenomenal  surge  for Grace Des Moines' electronic presence. “Our presence on Facebook spread very quickly and our website  use has gone up significantly as well,  and because of that, we've started to upload things to YouTube.  Within the first two weeks of not worshiping in person,  we had over 500,000 interactions on our Facebook page.  Some of the videos have been seen  thousands of times. The number of likes on the Facebook page has gone up by 30%.  Our website traffic at one point was up over 400%.  It's has worked to have this online presence that is connecting with people.  Just about every day  we're posting something,  either a devotion,  or a video, or some sort of Thought for the Day to keep people connected” Nims reports. 

Will  what  Grace Des Moines is doing to extend its outreach continue?  “There are a few ways that what we’re doing might stick,” he said.  “People have really appreciated the little drop-in videos that we've been doing.  We've had people  who  have  said  that they were  on lunch break,  watch the message, and have told us that  really helped  them...those little moments have made a difference.” In addition,  the growth of  Grace’s  online  presence  has  made more connections to the community than the church has experienced previously.  

Nims shared  a  response he’d received. “One person,  who to the best of my knowledge has never been to Grace in person, shared  that  something that we posted last week  made her feel ‘so thankful that this is my church.’  If someone  who  hadn't been to our church  and  hadn't interacted with us in person before  feels, through these interactions,  strongly connected and it's calling grace their church now” then the electronic outreach is worthwhile. 

Being physically  distanced by the Coronavirus  crisis  won’t limit the Grace community and its  pastor  and  ministry team.   “We are going into this week triumphantly with Christ.  We are headed towards this new covenant,  this new promise that we can love one another as Christ loves us and live into that command.  Yes,  we might face Good Friday,  and with Christ feel forsaken,  but we trust that this  Resurrection is still with us…even if it's  going to  take more than three days for us to get back together…because  we know it's coming.”