Summit Church adapts to the changing times

Friday, July 3, 2020

Summit Evangelical Free Church in Alta is reorganizing how they meet the needs of their church family in the age of COVID-19. Programs and worship services are accessible online, and outdoor services are the norm. “No one is anxious to move inside,” Senior Pastor Doug Corlew said. They are taking it a week at a time.

The large lawn allows for the Outdoor/Drive-In Worship Service held every Sunday for an hour beginning at 10:30 a.m. Some churchgoers listen outside while others remain in their vehicles. The outside service began in May.

“It’s going well. We might have 50% of what we have indoors,” Corlew said. “We plan to continue with our Outdoor/Drive-In Worship Service through the summer and fall because it’s working so well.” The plan is to continue the outside service until the weather becomes too cold.

When rain is forecasted, the service is moved up a day to Saturday evening. Communication is everything with such a large church, so when the service changes, notification can be found on the web site, Facebook and church e-mail list.

Corlew said most of the church family has been strong through the pandemic. “They feel thankful for their blessings and maybe have gained new strengths,” although there are some cases of loneliness.

The majority of feedback church leaders have received is, “People are grateful of being connected.” A positive outcome of the pandemic is that more people have become aware of the online resources and teachings that can be accessed at any time at their convenience.

Another change this year is the August 9th “Kids for Christ” program that will take place in one evening, 6:30 - 8 p.m. rather than a full week of evenings. It is for kids 4 years through 4th grade and will include many activities. This year it will take place outdoors, and parents will accompany their kids.

The church’s ministry store The Olive Branch, at 111 S. Main St. is open. Days and hours are Mondays 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays 12 to 3 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They are limiting the number of customers in the store at one time and asking that people wear face masks. No children under the age of 16 will be allowed in the store.

The 2020 All-Church Retreat, fourth annual, is still on for July 17-19 near Dayton, Ohio, and Corlew estimates 75 - 100 will attend, about half of last year’s attendance. They’ve simplified the retreat and there will be fewer large groups. He said people are looking forward to getting away.

As far as face-to-face church activities, “We’re evaluating that week by week. We’re getting a pulse on what’s happening in the community,” Corlew said.

For the younger crowd, Junior High and High School online ministries were going strong throughout the pandemic but have stopped for the summer, said Caleb Pipes, Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, adding that they plan to meet in person in the fall.

“When we met online, we had live audio and text chatting,” Pipes said. “The online ministries went well but everyone agreed that it wasn’t the same as meeting in person.” A youth retreat is still planned for mid-August, Lord willing, he said.

Currently, Pipes teaches a Zoom class, “The Great Church Councils” on Mondays at 7:00 p.m. It is about church history and how it applies now. He teaches about the reasons why these councils met, what they decided, and why that is important for our spiritual lives. “It is going well. We will be going through July 27th, so there are 3 weeks left. People are welcome to join for those last classes,” he said. Anyone can register by going to the church web site or by calling the church office.