An Easter Unlike Any Other: Ministry Innovation in Norway
What does church look like when the world is shut down and social distancing must be practiced? The effects of COVID-19 have drastically changed the way we gather amidst this pandemic and has forced churches worldwide to reimagine how God might have them reach their communities in this unprecedented time.
For followers of Jesus across the world, Easter looked a little different this year. While most churches have opted to use online platforms with livestream services, one church in Norway had another idea of how to celebrate Easter in a unique way.
“When Corona hit, we tried some different things…from small video preaching, illustrations, and music to something more practical,” said Pastor Maria Morfjord of Farsund Misjonskirke (Farsund Mission Church). As Easter approached, the church began getting word out about an idea for a drive-in style service. The local newspaper caught wind of this and soon, after an interview and photo-op, Maria was on the front page. Even the authorities gave permission. “In fact, the government was like ‘yeehoo, something to do!’” said husband, Martin Morfjord.
Photo Svein Morten Havaas, Lister24 xc
On Easter Sunday, attendees gathered in an old airport parking lot, in their cars, with their windows rolled down an inch or two. Maria and other leaders stood two meters apart on a tractor trailer with a piano and sound equipment. “It ended up with 250-300 people which is crazy! We have never had over 200 for an Easter service,” said Martin. Under the shining sun, people worshipped and heard the preached Word.
Photo Svein Morten Havaas, Lister24 xc
The church also wanted to find a way to prier for the families and individuals who attended. After the service, the cars would leave the parking lot while passing under a rainbow banner, fondly called the “blessing carpet”, as a reminder of the promise God made to Noah long ago. Church members who held the banner would pray for each car as they drove by slowly.
But that wasn’t the end of the Easter celebration.
In Norway, parents often think churches are the primary spiritual teachers and examples for their children. “We’ve been working in the church to build up parents to see themselves as the primary spiritual leaders for their kids,” Maria shared. “Parents often think, ‘We go to church and send our kids to Sunday school and they give spiritual guidance.’ We want to flip that around. We want parents to see that they are the main spiritual leaders for their children.”
Maria crafted a scavenger hunt for the families who attended to participate in after the service. At each stop in and around the town, there was a fun activity and a scripture passage to go along with it; such as, reading Psalm 23 while laying in a green pasture, whittling a cross out of wood, singing a children’s song about sheep to an actual sheep. With the vast, beautiful nature of Norway at their disposal, families could adventure together while practicing social distancing and share a reflection time on the meaning of Easter. Along the way, the families documented their stops through photographs and videos which the church is compiling into a video to share on their website.
“In every situation, there are always ways to evangelize, to reach out, to help, and to disciple people. But we have to think differently right now. How do we do it in this time?”
For all of us living in the midst of COVID-19, what it looks like to serve the Lord and our communities is quite unique. While maintaining safety and complying with governmental guidelines is essential, finding creative ways to be together, continuing to be the church, and have fun with our families is so important.
One of the beauties of the gospel is that in Christ we have fullness of joy. As pastor and author Peter Scazzero notes, we live in a “delight deficient” culture. But as Martin and Maria realized and made clear through their laughter and joyful countenance, “to have fun is one of the best ways to grow in discipleship.” God has deeply wired us for connection, joy, and fun.
While the application will look different for each of us in various regions of the world, the beckon of Christ is still the same, to delight in Him and seek to love our communities for the glory of God. So whether you are a family with young children, isolating at home by yourself, or are an empty-nester, Jesus still beckons you to live into your identity as a beloved child of Christ— to find joy in unparalleled circumstances and to creatively seek to love our communities with the hope and peace of Christ.
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Farsund Mission Church’s website: https://www.farsund-misjonskirke.com/About the authors:
Grant and Naomi Klinefelter are storytellers with Greater Europe Mission and will also be serving in Birmingham, England. Check out grantandnaomi.com to learn more.
Svein Morten Havaas, Lister24 xc