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How do YOU do home church during COVID?

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

photo from ComeUntoChrist.org

In a recent Christian Science Monitor article called “Virtual Sunday School: Where faith endures during Lockdown”, Rachel Lambourne of Fremont, CA, responds to a question about how having church at home works for her and her young family during this age of COVID.

Rachel says, “I think the peace that we generally feel when we are together, when we are praying together – that peace is the only thing that can really transcend all of the worry and confusion.”

Sister Lambourne is a bright, creative, talented Latter-day Saint with four children and a fine husband. (Full disclosure: she is also my niece.) Her family adapts to church at home by inviting the children to pick songs and give talks.

People from other faith traditions in the CSM article mention the added challenge of now being responsible for the religious education of their children. With the Church of Jesus Christ’s pre-COVID push for “home centered/Church supported” religious education, many of us feel like we are now (and pretty much always have been) the primary providers of spiritual nourishment for our children as well as for ourselves. The Church provides community, service opportunities, leadership and stewardships. That is still the case, but the community is much more “virtual”, and we’ve become prayerfully creative during this odd time we’re in.

I’m curious to know how adapting to home church is working for my sister saints during this tense time.

I hope everyone recognizes it as a tense time and hasn’t just blown it off as some wacko conspiracy. Seriously, folks. Follow the science.

And when I say “for my sister saints”, I’m aware that there is something off about sisters who live alone not being able to participate in the sacrament in a “traditional” way. I hope that we will have worked the bugs out of that system long before the next pandemic comes around.

So what have you been doing? What have you tried that works well? What doesn’t work as well? What new insights do you have? Do you feel more involved in the spiritual education of your family or has it stayed pretty much the same?

Here’s how we’ve been handling it.

My shelter-in-place time has added more people to my “germ posse” here in our house. Usually it is just my work-from-home husband and me knocking around the place. We now have 6 other loved ones here – one of my sons, his wife, their two little boys ( a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old. The little guy has lived half his life now with us in stay-at-home sequester.). We also host my daughter-in-law’s parents with whom we get along splendidly. While of course there is some strain on all of us (not the least of these being the open-ended-ness of this situation), we’ve become an “all hands on deck” team and frankly have enjoyed ourselves beyond reason. I feel a little sheepish about how good it has been.

How we handle the Sabbath and the sacrament is a bit complex because of the three congregations we are part of.

My son’s in-laws tune into the live-streamed broadcast from their Presbyterian church in another state.

My son is the Elders’ Quorum President of their family’s urban ward in DC. He’s on a variety of calls and videos starting early because of the two hour time zone difference between DC and our place in Utah. My daughter-in-law is in that same ward’s Primary Presidency and has online meetings during the week with the rest of the leadership and helps create videos for the ward’s children. Their broadcasts happen in a different part of the house while we’re involved with our own, so I have no idea how they involve their adorable tots into Gospel learning. They do however have lively (and short) family nights with us all where the 3 year old is still able to call most of the shots. Wait ‘til his brother gets a little older. Will we still be doing home church by the time the infant can walk?!

My husband and I have hosted a Gospel Study with ward members and friends tied to “Come Follow Me” every 3rd Sunday since last Summer, and we continue it by zoom these days. We also tune in on Sundays to the live Dialogue Gospel Study podcasts. Last Sunday’s featured Fiona Givens’ take on Mosiah 18. These podcasts are recorded so you can tune in to view and hear the whole series so far if you like. They’re free. They’re meaty and to me spiritually satisfying.

Taking the sacrament with my husband remains sacred and intimate. Transcendent even. I wrote about it here at Segullah.

I hope you’ll share what has worked well as you continue to navigate home-church – and even what hasn’t since those are often the most instructive lessons. Do you take the sacrament all together? Do you have a more fleshed out “program” with talks and musical performances? Do you meet in your jammies or get dressed up? Do you worry about whether you are “doing it right”? Do you appreciate the leeway given by the Church’s pre-pandemic emphasis on home centered spiritual learning? Are you discovering new things you’d like to continue even after our wards meet face to face again?

If you live alone, what has your experience been? Has your load been lightened? Made heavier? If so, how can we help?

Everyone, please stay safe and well. If you are ill, we’ll offer up prayers on your behalf even if you want to remain anonymous.

Whether healthy or not, try my niece’s suggestion of praying together as a family and see if you, too, find it transcends all the worry and confusion of our troubled times. My guess is that works for folks who live alone, too.

Here are some bolstering words from Luke 12:32:

 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

6 thoughts on “How do YOU do home church during COVID?”

  1. As a single traveler, I am accustomed to being and serving in different wards and branches around the world every week. So being sequestered at home alone has been weird. Yes, the fact that we single sisters cannot receive the sacrament right now needs addressing from the top down. I am missing that and the temple most. And I miss meeting with my home ward, but my weeks have become full of gospel – centered zoom meetings and classes and that has been a real blessing. I am having increasing trouble making the Sabbath feel like a different sort of day than every other day, but maybe that’s a good thing. I had been dressing up for Sunday, but simply forgot yesterday. I do use worship music more intentionally on the Sabbath. I enjoy my zoom Sunday school class. Sometimes I fast, but I fast on other days too. Same with family history work, which I do daily for fun. I don’t have a Sunday church calling, which I think would help my focus, but I do feel connected to the larger faith community. .It is a weird time, but the challenges are interesting and the blessings apparent.

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  2. I'll be honest, by the time Sunday comes around we are exhausted and do less and less each week. After cajoling our four boys (ages 5-13) to get homework done each week and juggling our own jobs, we are basically comatose on Sunday. Not to mention being 8 months pregnant. We usually participate in our Sunday school zoom meeting but our kids aren't getting much out of Sunday. They complain if we try to do much and we are too tired to push it. Our primary sends out a message but our youth program has done nothing. I do enjoy not having many responsibilities for church, but I do feel like our kids need more than exhausted parents!

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  3. Lisa – Thanks for the wonderfully detailed and thoughtful account of your life in the time of Covid. I LOVE the idea of doing family history during this time! If my brain weren't so fuzzy and my time so chopped up, I'd dive right in and get lost for hours and hours. I think I have picked most of the low-hanging fruit, though. I keep hitting roadblocks.

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  4. Amanda – Thanks for your candor. I imagine you are in good company! I can't wrap my mind around how difficult this whole shelter-in-place work must be for families with school-aged and younger kids at home. While our situation is different (as you probably noticed, we currently have 6 adults to two wee ones), I can still definitely identify with the exhaustion and the inability to concentrate. I think the not knowing how long this will go on accounts for a lot of our societal malaise. Hang in there, friend!

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  5. Our family with teens/tweens has loved home family church. I love how come follow me was implemented over a year ago, and as a church and as a family we had a smooth transition, since we were already doing it. I'm grateful we don't have to rely on a weekly minister to preach to us by technology to keep us spiritually awake. Each home in our church can preach/teach the gospel in their home for what works best for them. We have a manual to follow (Come Follow Me) with some guidelines, but it is still very adaptable for each home. There was no desperate scramble from our church of what to do when the world shut down.

    We have the sacrament each week. My teen boys can administer this with their dad. We all love this part. My 14 yr old son, a teacher, even closes the doors in an adjoining room as if he were doing that at church. This gives us all the giggles. Our dog has to be dismissed from the room, so he doesn't eat the sacrament. More giggles. We sing an opening song, and sacrament hymn. My husband always conducts the meeting. The kids play the piano with wrong notes, more giggles. No perfection here. One kid each week give a short spiritual thought after the sacrament. I love this part. I have purposely not had mom/dad do this part. I love hearing my kids' spiritual thoughts, that I was never hearing before. Not even with come follow me, before the pandemic was I hearing my kids spiritual thoughts. This has been a great part of home family church. We've had a couple fast & testimony meetings now too. Each are invited to share a short testimony if they wish. Surprisingly everyone does. In our home ward on fast/testimony meetings my children never went up to bare a testimony in front of a congregation. Another positive part of home church. Each week we rotate every other week with a sunday school thought all together or we separate into RS YW/ EQ YM meetings. One week I found the priesthood meeting outside on the trampoline. I love that my husband can spend some time with his sons on Sunday. I love that I can spend some time with my daughter discussing some spiritual things. We've talked about Heavenly Mother and Eve. So fun.

    We have a set time for church to start before lunch. We are still always late. Even though it's in our home and we just simply come downstairs. More giggles. We get dressed in our Sunday best. I think that feels good to us. A reason to wear our best once a week. I put on make up, curl my hair. The boys comb their hair, shower. This feels good especially during a home quarantine where we become a bit more lazy about our appearance. I like that the Sunday dress helps us differentiate Sunday from the rest of the days of the week. Quarantine has left us all wondering what day it is.
    We remember to act a little different from the rest of the week on Sunday. This gives us emotional, mental grounding, I believe. We ask the boys to not video game on Sunday, and we don't run to Home Depot to start home projects on Sunday. We try to keep this day different from the rest of the week. We do watch movies together and get out in nature on Sunday. We've had some ward/church zoom meetings. They are ok, nothing too exciting, some even get a little long.

    Family Home Church has been positive for our family and kids ages 9-16. It has been a much needed break from church callings, church busyness, and awkward ward social moments. It has been a much needed time for our family to grow spiritually individually and as a family not dependent on a building with people in it, but just simply on Jesus Christ.

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