Holding Faith, Together in Worship
The entire world has changed dramatically during the past few months. Our families and personal lives have not been immune to the disruptions and sufferings the pandemic has inflicted. We mourn for what has been lost. We are anxious about what may come.
Nevertheless, two things abide: God’s steadfast love for us through Jesus Christ, and God’s commandment for us to love one another.
While it is true that “love never ends” (I Corinthians 13:8), how we experience and share God’s love does change. As the stories in this magazine demonstrate, our members and staff have exhibited amazing resiliency, creativity, and perseverance in continuing Second’s mission. We have had to so thoroughly reimagine, rethink, and recreate our ministries that it feels like we have had to begin, anew.
However, in reality, with God’s abiding love and Second’s faithfulness throughout many generations, it is more accurate to say that the crises we face have given us the opportunity to begin, again!
In early March of this year, the season of Lent was upon us. Carefully laid plans for Lenten worship and study and, finally, glorious Easter celebration lay ahead of us with sparkling clarity. Then within a few days in mid-March, everything changed. We shifted to online only worship – surely, just for a few weeks. Days, weeks, and then months passed, and our church settled into a new rhythm of worship.
We celebrate how we have continued to hold faith together during these strange and uncertain times. In addition to Sunday morning services, Second continued the tradition of Maundy Thursday worship by broadcasting the service from 2019. On Easter Sunday 2020, our virtual worshippers surpassed by the thousands our in-person attendance on Easter Sunday 2019.
Even as we mourned “Missing Easter” as Rev. Chris Henry titled his Easter sermon, we affirmed that we are Easter people, living into this new reality with grace and hope. On Easter morning, members of our congregation and Sanctuary Choir members led us in song from their living rooms, and in May we were inspired to “Draw the Circle Wide” with a musical video compilation from our Children’s Choirs.
Beautiful music has accompanied and inspired us along this journey. The Music and Fine Arts department brought a blend of creative solutions to Sunday morning worship – with Sanctuary Choir section leaders, other soloists, duets, and guest instrumentalists joining Organist John Allegar (or Dale Caldwell, who filled in when John was on sabbatical). Some worship services have featured carefully chosen music selections from pre-recorded worship services of the past several years.
During the summer months, our online viewership stayed strong, with thousands of worshipers tuning in from around the country. On some Sunday mornings, we have more devices connected to our worship service than there are seats in the sanctuary pews!
As all eyes and ears of the congregation have tuned in online, our AV team has risen to the challenge, overcoming power outages, overloaded streaming platforms, and exponentially more viewers than ever before. Their dedication and servant leadership continues to bring enhanced broadcast quality to our virtual worship experience and digital communication.
In March we launched a weekly Thursday Evening Prayer Service on Facebook Live. This 15 to 20 minute service is led by one of our pastors, often a Lake Fellow, with another pastor moderating comments. The weekly touchstone provides comfort and care to those in our congregation and beyond. In July the Thursday Evening Prayer featured Virtual Communion with pastors leading the sacrament for worshippers joining from home.
As we look toward the upcoming Advent season, we still face some uncertainty and know that plans may unfold in unexpected ways. But we remember the One who remains constant and sure in our lives. We are learning to adapt and celebrate new ways of worship and praise, as we continue holding faith, together. As in the past, we will begin, again.
Holding Faith, Together
This online magazine chronicles how Second navigated the first weeks of the 2020 pandemic. You can find hope and inspiration in the email messages, video devotionals, sermons, and worship music that encouraged us all to continue holding faith, together.
Caring For One Another
As a welcoming community of faith, we share God’s love with each other by supporting one another through calm seas and in turbulent times. Throughout the year, we continue to support each other in ways large and small, communal and individual.
In prayer – no matter our distance – we share moments of joy, challenging times, and days of sorrow. This call to stand by one another in prayer stands the test of time and circumstance. Second’s intercessory prayer group has held strong and steady throughout the pandemic, quickly shifting online this spring and consistently joining Second staff in surrounding our members and others in loving prayer. That work goes on. If you have a concern, a sorrow, or a joy, we invite you to share with your church at SecondChurch.org/Prayer.
The ministry of care for others with the love of Jesus Christ knows no time or space. Staff and church members have found new ways to reach out to those in need of a gentle affirmation, a kind word, or a reassuring presence. Flowers left on porches, handwritten notes in mailboxes, grocery shopping for each other, sewing masks, drive by parades, delivering meals, posters and signs of love, and more have helped keep hope and fellowship alive. Shepherding one another through grief, new beginnings, and the yet unseen has anchored our faithful work and will always ground our call as disciples of Christ.
The “Keeping In Touch” ministry has continued to faithfully reach out to our members to learn family updates and prayer needs. This dedicated group of volunteers provides steadfast care month after month, embodying the presence and care of Christ’s body, the church.
Continuing a years-long tradition, members of the Board of Deacons have recorded weekly inspiring messages. These thoughtful devotions are available at SecondChurch.org/Watch and by calling the inspirational phone line at (317) 522-1943. Training for the next class of Deacons is again underway with renewed purpose and conviction for the journey we are called to share with one another.
It is the message of Christ that we are charged to carry forth in our ministry of care. Viewed by tens of thousands across the country, our pastors recorded such messages over video in the early weeks of COVID-19. Did you see them? A beautiful series of video devotionals, our pastors reminded us of the One who remains sure and steady – telling of God’s grace, God’s presence, God’s unshakable love. These videos are available on SecondChurch.org/Watch and on the Second Church YouTube channel.
CenterPoint Counseling has seen an increased demand for counseling services in this time of uncertainty. The Center’s 12 staff therapists have provided steady guidance and help during crisis for individuals, couples, and families from throughout central Indiana. Most sessions this year have been online via a secure, telehealth portal. Dr. David Chaddock shared the wisdom of CenterPoint with our greater Indianapolis community – and beyond – by participating in a widely viewed panel about mental health hosted by Christian Theological Seminary. He reminded us of our interconnectedness, and spoke of rediscovering our communal sense of belonging – our deep need for compassion, grace, and love.
As we look ahead, we remember the gift that comes with selfless love. The gift of checking in on one another – and allowing others to check in on you. Caring in partnership and with empathy is a beautiful witness of Christ’s love. We are called to share and carry one another’s burdens and walk side by side in faith and in love. No matter what we experience individually or collectively, what will always remain is our call to care for one another, meeting every new challenge with creativity, compassion, and the persistent determination to begin, again.
Nurturing Spiritual Formation
The Holy Spirit continues to move among us, guiding our individual faith journeys and binding us together as a church community. We may be at different stages and ages along the way, but we share a goal of becoming closer to God and living in communion with God’s people.
At times when we are not able to meet face-to-face, we come together in new ways -- with Zoom gatherings, Facebook Live events, and carefully orchestrated events.
Children & Family Ministries
Children’s Sunday school continues each week. Online resources allow readers and non-readers to engage with Bible stories through video storytelling, crafts, games, and other activities. On Sunday mornings, you can join the Children & Family Ministries team for Prayer Circle at 9:10 a.m. Rather than joining hands on the second floor, we join Zoom from home and continue this tradition of starting our Sabbath with prayer. Children’s choirs continued to meet via Zoom to sing and praise God together.
Beginning in March, Kat and Ann launched weekly online devotions each Wednesday evening on Facebook Live. These Faith Family Devotions continue to be treasured breaks during each busy week. Wednesday Night Kids Club shifted online to Zoom for the spring, and this fall new, innovative children’s engagement is coming to a screen near you.
June brought VBS like we’d never experienced before! Virtual VBS was a week of engagement, learning, faith, and FUN for more than 130 children within and beyond Indianapolis ... even beyond Indiana! Each day started with a fun Zoom broadcast with Ann VanMeter, Interim Facilitator of Children and Family Ministries, and Brianna Holt, Director of Children’s Music, from within the church building. Deb Leithauser presented fabulous Bibleland Adventure stories via video, and Karen Archbold created inspired music videos for each day. Other online Virtual VBS fun included videos with Second families presenting games, crafts, and other activities.
Later in the summer, Compassion Camp offered another series of videos with lessons and activities encouraging children to “Be Loved. Be Kind. Be You.” Like the Virtual VBS videos, these online resources remained available on our website all summer.
In August, our new first graders received their new Spark Bibles – a tradition known and loved by the families of Second. This presentation parade and ice cream celebration brought together Second’s young families to enjoy fellowship and the excitement of burgeoning faith, all with careful planning and guidelines.
After an abrupt end to the 2019-2020 school year, Children’s Circle Preschool has quietly reopened this fall under the careful guidance of Director Cara Paul. New procedures, such as curbside drop-off and pick-up, ensure minimal traffic inside the church building. All rooms and surfaces are routinely cleaned. Preschool staff follow up-to-date health guidelines, allowing for a safe and nurturing environment for the young learners. CCP parents, most of whom are not Second members, appreciate the regular schedule, which allows them to work while their little ones are well cared for.
We are blessed with wonderful and wonderfully creative staff and volunteers to guide our young believers as they move forward in faith.
Middle and high school students stayed in touch with weekly Zoom calls and social media updates. Tyler Wolfcale and Tom Markey orchestrated online discussions, allowing the students to guide conversation topics and responding to the issues they identified. Even screen fatigue from online school didn’t keep these kids from church on Sundays and Wednesdays!
Our high school seniors continued weekly Footsteps of Faith sessions, studying the writings of Paul with Lake Fellows Jasiel Hernandez and Kelley Jepsen. Their travel was postponed until the summer of 2021 when they will walk in the Footsteps of those who have gone before us. Be sure to watch the video that captures the testimony and strength of these incredible high school graduates at SecondChurch.org/Youth.
In late August, 49 students joined our family of faith in an outdoor Confirmation ceremony. During the event, each student was recognized with a Bible verse chosen just for them, as families watched from a safe distance in the north parking lot. In an updated version of the traditional laying on of hands, elders surrounded the parking lot with outstretched hands. The moving ceremony marks an important passage for these Confirmands and the beginning of a new journey.
Adult spiritual formation moved online this year, with classes and Bible studies meeting over Zoom. Dr. John Franke presented new education offerings, created with online delivery in mind. Sent into the Word, transitioned from a Wednesday evening class to an online exploration. On Sunday mornings, Blessed Messiness, Koinonia, and Upper Room continue to gather online via Zoom. Theology, Thoughts & Coffee welcomed all into weekly Zoom classes on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. as the group explored White Fragility, Trouble I’ve Seen, White Too Long, and other topical texts.
During Lent, members of Second’s Spiritual Formation team began recording Lectio Divina videos. These ten-minute videos guide viewers through the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina, which involves hearing the same Scripture passage four times, each time with a different intention. The team has recorded more than 150 videos, one for each weekday since mid-March. The videos have logged more than 2,000 views so far as seekers continue to find solace and inspiration in the ancient practice of Lectio Divina.
In the spring, Lake Fellow Kelley Jepsen worked with Rev. Brian Shivers and Dr. John Franke to produce Presbyterian 101, a series of videos presenting the tenets of our faith. The series is available at SecondChurch.org/Adults and outlines the history, polity, worship tradition, and mission emphasis of our church.
As the country became increasingly aware of racial issues, Second launched a new section of our website, SecondChurch.org/Justice, with recommended resources inviting people to pray, read, learn, study, and act. Several small groups incorporated these suggestions into their virtual studies.
This summer we revisited Childhood Bibles Stories then jumped into the story of Jonah. Children’s Sunday school lessons and youth discussions echoed the stories from Sunday’s worship, and adult study questions guided further exploration of these thought-provoking themes.
The spiritual formation team continues to provide innovative resources and classes to guide us along the way as we journey – individually and communally – toward a closer relationship with God. With each new opportunity, we once again find ways to begin, again.
Living Out Our Mission
Second’s story is one of service to others. From our church’s founding, Second members have responded to social issues of the time and reached out with programs that were creative and innovative in their day. Changing times continue to challenge us to be faithful and thoughtful in how we engage with our community. In each new age, we find ways to begin, again.
Our purpose – the way we seek to reflect our love of God – is to stand as a welcoming community of faith where Jesus Christ transforms lives. This summer, the elders of Second voted to embrace the Matthew 25 initiative – a vision set forth by the PC (USA) that anchors our mission work on three key pillars: eradicating systemic poverty, dismantling structural racism, and building congregational vitality. This work has always been our call as people of God and followers of Jesus Christ; this work has long been central to the mission of Second Presbyterian Church in our city and beyond; this work calls to us anew and afresh in this moment. We continue to serve with continued compassion, intention, re-energized conviction, and conversation.
In short, mission is not just what we do; it is who we are as faithful servants of a living God. This year’s circumstances have led us to examine existing programs in new ways and to explore how we might respond to fresh challenges. We continue to distill our work to its essence: serving God by serving others. As we move forward under the Matthew 25 banner, we recommit to many mission partnerships that sustain our neighbors, in Indianapolis and beyond.
Northside Food Pantry responds to the needs of those in our immediate Washington Township community. In March, pantry volunteers donned masks and shifted operations to be low contact with curbside check-in and loading food directly into clients’ cars. High school and college students, faced with unanticipated time at home, stepped forward to volunteer, providing new energy and enthusiasm in a time of increased need.
With funding assistance from a grant by Second’s Presbyterian Women, Northside purchased a reconditioned box truck to facilitate food pick-up in the city. Second members suggested names for the vehicle, and survey results clinched the name of “Grace.” Grace is now sporting a fresh, new look as she cruises the streets of Indianapolis.
Second’s community garden, located south of the sanctuary, is once again producing fresh produce for Northside Food Pantry. More than 1,300 pounds of produce from the garden have filled the shelves of Northside Food Pantry this year, and the harvest continues. Volunteers tend this plot year round, ensuring the space is both functional and beautiful, with an abundance of vegetables and flowers. Visitors are welcome in the prayer garden, a lovely spot for rest and reflection.
We continue to work closely with the Washington Township School District. The start of school this fall unfolded differently as in past years, but we navigated the changing plans and partnered with other congregations to provide school essentials for local students. The massive effort involved school supplies for each elementary, middle, and high school student, in addition to special kits for home learning as the district decided to start the school year with virtual instruction. In July Second members spanning all ages came together for masked and physically distant work sessions to pack 3,000 kits for local middle school students.
Second continues its 32-year partnership with Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity. The organization has scaled back its plans for the year, but the annual interfaith build, which Second initiated, is once again taking place this fall. Second members can support future homeowner Doris as she works to complete Habitat classes and move with her two boys into their new home. Habitat is offering engagement kits as a way for Second members to support the family. Each engagement kit includes a notecard (with stamped envelope) to mail to Doris, a profile of the family, a calendar of blessings, coloring and activity sheets, and a wish list of items the new homeowners need.
Recently, Rev. David Berry reflected on the long-term relationship between Second Presbyterian and Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity. Not only has this partnership served our neighbors with the construction or rehabilitation of dozens of homes, providing much-needed stable housing for local families, the annual interfaith build has nurtured relationships among faith communities in our city. By following “the theology of the hammer” as Habitat for Humanity Founder Millard Fuller said, members of Second have joined with other people of faith to live out the challenge of helping others – not only through Habitat builds, but also through other organizations spawned by these interactions, including the Center for Interfaith Cooperation and Umoja Partnership. The Habitat for Humanity story on our website (SecondChurch.org/Habitat) features a beautiful testimony from Rev. David Berry sharing his experience with Habitat for Humanity.
In October, our church is once again a collection site for disaster relief buckets and hygiene kits to be distributed around our country and overseas by Church World Service. These kits include necessary supplies for those who have experienced natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, or wildfires. In addition to gathering the buckets assembled by others, our church is also hosting sessions (with masks and physically-distanced work stations) for the Second faith family to come together to assemble these essential kits for those in need.
Christmas Benevolence has been a vital part of Second’s local outreach for decades. This year the program is shifting to adapt to changing times. We will continue to serve between 130 and 150 families in our community. Some cherished Christmas traditions, such as opportunities for members to purchase new gifts or wrap presents, will continue. This year we are inviting families to come to Second to pick-up their items, instead of having Second members deliver them. Rather than working toward a single Delivery Day, Deacons are working closely with Northside Mission Ministries to support our local families throughout the year. For example, the Winter Warmth coat drive this fall brings warm outerwear to children and adults as the weather begins to cool.
As a church family, we adjust to changing times and tides while remembering our core identity. We are all children of God, called to reach out in love to our neighbors. The Matthew 25 initiative reminds us to actively engage in our community.
An African proverb states that “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” God equips us for the journey. Jesus travels alongside us. The Spirit guides us to move together toward a more just and loving world for all God’s children.