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Lockdown in Vienna: Larry and Melinda Henderson

1. Give me a brief description of your 2020 highs and lows. What went really well and what were some of the challenges you faced?
In hindsight, we see our lows in a better perspective but at the time they seemed heavier because of the uncertainty of what was ahead. The lockdowns and restrictions did not allow any of us to meet in person. I know that’s obvious for everyone but it completely shifted our paradigm from a physical, engaging community to a digital community. We grieved over the loss of our face to face time with each other and corporate worship. Our model requires us to live by a strict calendar but that was all turned upside down requiring us to shift resources and energy to engage in new ways. Many members suffered the loss of a family member and could not have a funeral. Young couples who had invested months into planning had to postpone their wedding. We lost income from those who primarily give cash. The hardest part for me personally was the rollercoaster of emotions from being told “you can open, now you have to close, you call tell people to come back, now you have to tell them not to come.” We all use words like Zoom fatigue or “I feel like we’re living in a fog,” but it was a challenging year emotionally for our church family.

As always in life, the highs outweighed the lows. We saw the tangible presence of God manifest in people’s lives, in our Zoom calls, through social media platforms, in our new discipleship pathways and relational connections. We saw family members who would never come to a physical building before now, sit and watch services in their homes and give their life to Jesus! We lost some people but strengthened our leadership circle with new people serving who were not engaged before. We’ve created a culture of digital engagement allowing us to do training, marriage Zoominar’s, and even see people receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit online. Digital giving increased which will result in more stability for the future. Our media volunteers accelerated their competencies and become an amazing team that has greatly increased the value they add to our church culture. We had to move out of a campus we had been in for 18 years but God provided us with the opportunity to relocate into a casino that went bankrupt due to COVID. Most of all, our faith has increased! No one prays to go through what we’ve all been through but the spiritual growth that we’ve all seen happens no other way.

2. How much of the year did you and your church/city spend in lockdown vs. free to have church?
We were able to have restrictive services 4 out of 12 months.

3. What are some of the good things you witnessed over this past year and what are some of the difficult things you and your church experienced?
In addition to what I shared above in Question #1, I would say specifically that historical moments like this last year bring out the best in people and the worst in people. We really saw people at their best – living sacrificially, serving, engaged, growing… and we have seen people at their worst – self-centered, complaining, cynical, disobedient, lazy, drifting.

5. How do you think this year has affected your church?
It’s been painful, but has made us stronger. We can’t fully measure the answer to this question yet but believe it has changed us both personally and corporately to become more like Jesus and to reflect what He desires us to be as a church.

6. Almost one year on, what has God taught you through this unprecedented experience?
God has helped all of us to recalibrate and live for what matters. We’ve always spent time in God’s presence but this year has taught us the value of something we always took for granted. We’ve understood more deeply the power of presence… both with God and with each other.

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