With multiple worship services on Sundays, preschools for two different age groups from infants to preschoolers during the week, pastoral ministries from counseling to crisis care and outreach programs for the elderly, the homeless and others in need, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood keeps a busy schedule in its mission of “Building. Belonging. Becoming.”
But the church, along with the many other churches in South Snohomish County, is needing to find new ways to serve its members, guests and the community during the present age of COVID-19 concerns.
“The situation has certainly disrupted what we used to do,” said Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo.
For more than 75 years, Trinity Lutheran Church has been a staple of life in Lynnwood and for others living nearby, hosting both religious and secular activities on its three-acre campus on 196th Street Southwest. But with state government directives to cease gatherings for now, the church has shut its doors to all on-site activities through the month of April.
Despite the challenge of its building being closed, the church is still trying to meet the spiritual needs of its members and regular attenders, Garfias-Toledo noted. Weekly worship services, a weekly prayer time and a weekly Bible study are all livestreamed on its Facebook page.
“We have recorded (services), so we have all the equipment and all the experience of setting up everything,” Garfias-Toledo said of the church’s audio-visual department. “The only thing that’s different this time is the livestream – to actually broadcast it through the internet.”
Garfias-Toledo said there was a good response to Trinity’s first livestream worship service on March 15, something that has encouraged church leadership.
“We are the scattered church, wherever we are at now,” Garfias-Toledo said. “We are still able to be the church.”
While technology can provide an avenue for some work of the church to continue, it cannot substitute for other ministries. The church’s popular Child Development Center (for infants ages 4 weeks through 36 months) and Preschool (for ages 3-5 years) are now closed. And while Gov. Jay Inslee’s directive to close all public and private K-12 schools lasts through April 24, there is no clear answer as to when Trinity’s pre-K programs will get restarted.
“That would be a loss for the community and that’s one of the big concerns for the leadership of the congregation and for the directors of our schools,” Garfias-Toledo noted.
Trinity has also had to scale back other ministries that reach out to the community. The church’s Saturday morning “Neighbors in Need” program had been serving a hot meal and providing various other aid to as many as 150 in need, but has had to eliminate most of those services. The assistance provided now is limited to a “grab-and-go” sack meal.
“We don’t have the showers, don’t have the laundromat where people can do their laundry and they don’t have the hot breakfast,” Garfias-Toledo explained.
Even outreach away from the Trinity Lutheran campus has been affected by changes brought about by COVID-19. Church leadership has had to adapt the way they console elderly members that live in local assisted living homes that now don’t allow visitations.
“So they are feeling isolated; they are feeling lonely because we cannot visit them,” Garfias-Toledo said of elderly shut-ins. “(The facilities) don’t allow pastors or the pastoral care team to visit them. So what we are trying to do is that again, trying to remind people that even though we are scattered in this way, we are still the church and we are trying to reach out to them now with a card that we are thinking of them and that they can call the church if they have any needs.”
Garfias-Toledo also noted that one of the biggest disappointments for him and the Trinity Lutheran leadership is the inability for the church to continue its tradition as a place for musical performances.
“Trinity has been known for years almost like a community center with people coming for concerts and music – and all of that has been cancelled,” Garfias-Toledo said. “So that is limiting the opportunities for people to have a place to gather.”
The church started hosting choral, organ and school concerts in its sanctuary after a fire set by an arsonist heavily damaged the church’s previous building in October, 1992.
“After the fire, after the building was burned down, the congregation received a lot of support from the community,” Garfias-Toledo explained. “So (leadership) decided that Trinity was going to give back to the community, and that’s a way Trinity tried to do it.”
While the times are trying for Trinity Lutheran, Garfias-Toledo remains encouraged by how church leadership and his congregation is responding to the challenge.
“The people out there are supporting one another,” he concluded.
— By Doug Petrowski