The State of SOTV in 2020

By Rick Summy, Senior Pastor (2020)

Normally, August would be an odd time to do a “State of the Church” article. But after about five months of COVID-19, the recent and long overdue awakening regarding racism in light of George Floyd’s death, and so much ambiguity about everyday life, perhaps it’s the perfect time to reflect a bit on how our congregation is doing.


Overall, I believe we have adapted beautifully to unforeseeable circumstances. (I remember thinking in March that we might be out two weeks or, perhaps, two months.)

  • While the building has been mainly closed, we have engaged in creative ministry that keeps us connected as the body of Christ (extra emails, phone calls, some outside social distant visits, online newsletter, a nimble website full of helpful information and resources).
  • Our virtual worship is the next best thing to being there, thanks to our worship leaders (staff and volunteers), some good equipment, and great people who know how to use it.
  • Our Food Shelf has operated without ceasing.
  • We have collected both supplies and money for the areas in St. Paul and Minneapolis that are most in need following George Floyd’s death. Thanks to your generosity, we’ve shared donated items from 200 households and checks totaling $8,000 with Holy Trinity in Minneapolis and Bethlehem in the Midway in St. Paul to help their neighbors.
  • Facebook Live Coffee Breaks and Bible Studies, Zoom Bible Studies, book and movie discussions offer a rich variety of opportunities to continue to learn. Even as we are able to be back together, many virtual offerings will continue.
  • We are prioritizing safety as we start to welcome groups into the building.

We are aware of people outside of our physical reach are participating in a number of our programs. It’s even possible that because of all of this we have, in some ways, grown as a congregation.

That said, there are challenges.

  • The loss of routine. Some people miss the routine tied to traditional worship schedules. We’re considering options like watch parties, conversations about the sermons, and virtual fellowship that might bring back some routine and sense of community.
  • Weariness. All screen all the time is simply tiresome. We’ll continue to think about neighborhood, outdoor, and small-group indoor gatherings that emphasize safety to create low-risk options.


Who hasn’t at times felt dog-tired, frustrated, depressed, isolated, concerned, and afraid? Chris and I love each other deeply and have enjoyed the extra time together, but the house can feel small. I’ve talked with staff and members who seem to share the same sentiments.

Even so, God is not confined to any building or space. God goes wherever we are. The good Lord is there to gently lift us when we fall, soothe our fraying nerves, surround us with love and grace—even if we don’t feel it.

And despite all of the difficulties, we have kept the faith.

  • Participation in our Worship, Learn, Connect, and Care ministries continues to be strong.
  • The community that gathers virtually on our daily Coffee Breaks is simply delightful.
  • We’ve taken seriously the call to examine ourselves and the policies of our communities regarding racism and its continuing insidious effects.
  • We’ve continued to cover our staff and benevolence

We’ve been able to do all of this because while giving is down slightly (about 7%), we have trimmed our expenses by 10%. During a pandemic accompanied by economic uncertainty, this might be the very definition of resilient. I thank God always when I consider your generous gifts. Thanks for your faithfulness.


I don’t know when we will be able to return to something like normal. I don’t know what normal will look like. But whenever it comes and whatever it looks like, God will already be there. Whatever the circumstances, God is with us and for us; nothing can separate us from God’s love. When you start there, you can’t help but be hopeful.

In response to that love we will

  • continue to care for our neighbors and for one another
  • prioritize safety with any in-person interactions
  • continue to seek creative ways to be the church
  • do our best to stay in touch
  • pay attention
  • pray, learn, and act
  • worship the one who creates, redeems, and sustains us

So stay with us for this journey through the wilderness, this journey that feels like exile. There will be manna along the way; songs of hope to sing. Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. This is not the time to fade away, to give up, to let our spiritual lives rust. It is the time to be together in faith, to flex the muscle of patience and forgiveness, to remember just how sacred life is—and how we are all in it together.

We will laugh and grieve together, and our laughter will be greater and our grieving will be lighter because we will do them together.

And when the day comes when we can all gather together again, we will certainly celebrate!