It’s been a weird year of ministry with H2O Church at Kent State University. We’re still doing Worship Gatherings and Life Groups this year. But everything is smaller and more distributed than usual because of COVID. And as a further precaution and measure of cooperation with the University, we’re doing almost everything outdoors or online this semester.
One might think that these adaptations would lead to attrition and atrophy within the church. And it’s true that our overall church attendance is probably down to about 60 percent of the levels we might see in a typical school year (though this is incredibly difficult to measure in a year like this one). But there have been some surprising ways that our church’s COVID adaptations this year have accelerated community and leadership development. Growing deeper, even if narrower.
We’ve developed seven different regions of the Kent campus and community this year. These regions carry the mission and vision of H2O through this pandemic. The region with which I’m most intimately acquainted and involved is the one that originally centered on the Centennial Courts residence halls and a number of off-campus students who were in a Life Group that met in the East Townhomes apartment complex last year. We started by calling ourselves “The Centennial Region.” But after Kent State University policy shifted to require worshipping off-campus — in addition to the significant number of off-campus students already involved — that name didn’t fit us as well any more.
We eventually started calling ourselves the Fellowship of the Hawk.
This was because we happened to have a red-tailed hawk join us for worship at each of the first six Sundays of the semester. Once he was perched in a nearby tree. Another time, he soared overhead. A couple other times, he was wheeling and calling out over a nearby stand of trees. But even as we shifted locations three times in those first six weeks of the semester, the hawk was the one consistent thing. So we eventually adopted the hawk as a sort of mascot.
All along the way, we kept striving to live Upward, Inward, and Outward. We worshipped on Sunday through wind, rain, sun, and frost. We developed two strong Life Groups, to allow for deeper interaction and to adhere to health guidelines. And against all odds, we’ve almost made it to the end of the semester.
We decided to order team sweatshirts, to commemorate this strange semester. My daughter, Olivia, came up with the design. And they turned out even better than we thought they would! This weekend, we were blessed with warm, sunny conditions for worship, sweatshirt distribution, and a couple of group portraits.
I’m real proud of these people. And I’m already looking forward to seeing how God will shape us through the winter and into the spring.