By Chris Moon
Rusty Carlson, lead executive pastor of Rainier View Christian Church in Tacoma, Wash., said he’ experienced a range emotions during the past few days as the church has sorted out its coronavirus plan.
“It’s kind of all the ‘feels,’ as our millennials say,” he told Christian Standard.
Rainier View is in the Seattle region, which is under a government-imposed ban on large gatherings. The church has announced it will hold online-only services this weekend.
Initially, Carlson said, he was excited for an opportunity to do some creative things in ministry. All of the church’s ministry teams are working to provide their services online, including the creation of material for parents to work through with their children at home.
It is a good opportunity to be innovative, Carlson said. But then reality began to set in on Thursday as major sports events were canceled—including the NCAA men’s basketball tournament—and schools and colleges made drastic changes to their spring operations.
“There’s a lot that changed yesterday [Thursday] afternoon,” Carlson said.
Then news emerged Friday morning that President Trump plans to declare a national emergency to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Rainier View Christian Church now is faced with the idea of not having onsite worship services until May. Easter activities would be drastically changed. Children’s and student ministry programs have been suspended, as have groups that meet in the church’s facilities.
The whole operation of the church may be different for the foreseeable future.
“This feels a little bit more like disaster and crisis relief,” Carlson said.
In that vein, the church is working on plans to match up senior citizens in the congregation with younger people in the church to make sure the elderly have all their needs met. Carlson said the church also has a “ton” of kids on free and reduced-price lunches in its neighborhood, and the church wants to care for them, as well.
“We’re in brand-new territory in terms of knowing how to handle this,” Carlson said.
Meanwhile, as a pastor of a large church, Carlson feels the weight of it. His parents attend his church. He has a child in college in California. He has a staff to care for. There’s a lot to think about.
He said he is thankful he is not in it alone.
“You bond together for sure,” Carlson said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.