“Through your volunteering and your financial gifts, we are making a difference. You truly are sharing God’s love and you are bringing hope to so many in need. Thank you so very, very much.” – Dr. Bob Long
During St. Luke’s online State of the Church meeting Monday night, Dr. Bob Long delivered a message of hope and gratitude to our family of faith as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“We found ourselves truly ‘reinventing church’ in about two weeks, turning on a dime and trying to figure out how are we going to carry out living our values, sharing Christ, growing in our faith, and serving our community. I’m just proud of everybody for all that we’ve been doing to make that happen.”
Since several churches have stopped their food programs due to health and safety concerns, St. Luke’s has taken on more responsibility to feed our most vulnerable neighbors through Meals On Wheels OKC. Dr. Long said St. Luke’s has gone from coordinating and delivering 500 meals a day to 800 meals a day, “…and we know that we will soon be up to a thousand in the next couple of weeks.” The increase is possible because of generous financial gifts, such as a $150,000 donation from Chad Richison through the Richison Family Foundation. It will provide more than 20,000 meals to homebound seniors in need over the next eight weeks. Recently, more than 700 boxes of shelf-stable food were picked up at the church and delivered to Meals On Wheels recipients by volunteers, and hundreds more were delivered to the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County.
“With that kind of support, it’s enabled us to buy the food and make this happen and grow in incredible ways,” Dr. Long said. “With all of your help volunteering and with all of your generous giving, St. Luke’s has become the place to turn to. We’re answering the call. This is our time in history. This is our moment to be ‘the church.’ We’ve never faced a time like this before and we’ve answered the call.”
Rev. Phil Greenwald, Executive Pastor of Administration, said the financial support of the church has been strong. First quarter contributions have been 4.4 percent ahead of projections, and up 7.4 percent over this time last year. All this despite no one being in the sanctuary to pass the plate. Online giving and text message giving has increased every week. Through March, more than $56,000 was received for food and outreach programs. By Monday afternoon, that number had grown to over $87,000. More than $19,000 has been received for the Benevolence Fund, which helps members who are struggling financially due to the crisis.
“We understand there are going to be people who lose their jobs, others whose income is reduced,” Rev. Greenwald said. “We know it’s such a time of incredible uncertainty. So we want to be really sensitive to that in our plans. We want to be helpful and supportive of anyone who may have a need.”
Rev. Wendy Lambert, Senior Executive Pastor, said online attendance has been increasing at an incredible rate. The first four Sundays before St. Luke’s transitioned to Online Only worship, the average online worship attendance was 594. On March 15, the first Sunday of Online Only worship, the attendance grew to 2,974. On March 22, that number increased to 5,861. On Palm Sunday, there were 7,599 people worshiping with St. Luke’s online. That’s nearly three thousand more people than the combined attendance of last year’s Easter services, which was the highest Easter worship attendance ever.
“I’m truly grateful for the technology that gives us that immediate connection, but in reality, we are connected through Jesus Christ,” Rev. Lambert said. “Whether we are in the building or at home, we are a family of faith, and I’ve never been more aware of the importance of the family of faith than right now and how much I love all of you and miss you.
“Please do not get comfortable worshiping from home, because when this time of separation is over, we want to see you. We’ll be there to welcome you back when that time comes.”
Rev. Josh Attaway, Edmond Campus Pastor, joined the meeting from his home while holding his newborn daughter, Lucy.
“She is doing well. She is healthy,” he said. “Even in the midst of these crazy and uncertain times, we’re grateful that we get to be together. Grateful for the gift of a family of faith and what a blessing it is to have that community of support around us.”
He also shared that over 20 community groups and Sunday school groups have been meeting digitally through slack and zoom. Reminding all of us that, “We know it is our faith, our trust in God’s love that sustains us. When we grow in our faith together, we know that we are not alone.”