[E-Chronicle, September 10, 2021] It's been 18 months since the initial pandemic lockdown took effect in the islands, and the continuing state of uncertainty, fear, mistrust, and division continues with the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" being snuffed out time and again.
Despite the bleak outlook, our churches have worked hard to keep worship going online and in tightly controlled in-person services. While many churches worldwide are struggling with the challenges of keeping congregants engaged and not falling off the grid during these times, some are thriving!
Here in the Diocese, Halau Wa'a and St. John-the-Baptist are seeing growth, especially with the younger generation. They are planting seeds of faith during a time when faith is being tested in many. We asked the Rev. Mark Haworth of Halau Wa'a Episcopal (Kapolei-Ewa Beach-Makakilo) and the Rev. Jazzy Bostock the Vicar at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church & Maluhia Lutheran (Waianae), to share their thoughts and insight on how they have been handling church life during the pandemic. Both are relatively new to their church communities, and have brought with them, enthusiasm, grace, and innovation.
An Interview with the Rev. Jazzy Bostock St. John the Baptist & Maluhia Lutheran
How long have you been in your current position? I began at St. John's in November 2020, and Maluhia in January 2021. I'm very new!
Bree and I bought a house and moved to Waianae Valley Road! It was so important to me to be a part of the community I am serving. We have always wanted a small hmoestead, and having the space for chickens (we now have 8!) and a substantial garden (work in progress) is a blessing. I like bumping into folks at the post office and Tamura's and Longs and City Mill and the farmer's market - it grounds me in community and reminds me of who I am called to serve - not just the folks who show up on Sunday mornings but all of God's people in this neighborhood.
What has been your greatest challenge(s) during this time? One of the challenges I have had, in both of my calls, is finding ways to be part of the wider community. We are in a time of lockdown, and being careful - but as a new hire it is so important to be out and about meeting folks. This is hard to juggle for all of us who are leading spiritual communities during this time - but particularly for those of us who have begun a new call during COVID.
What has been your greatest joy or accomplishment? My greatest joy at St. John's has been in developing my own skill and comfort with children's sermons, and listening to the amazing faith that our keiki have. I will sometimes share a bible story from one of my favorite kid's bibles (I like both Sparkhouse Story Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible), or sometimes read a book which connects to a theme in our gospel, or sometimes do a pop quiz with prizes.
Our kids amaze me with their willingness to share their faith with the congregation, and they often make me smile. Some of my favorites have been: In telling the story of Adam and Eve, I asked what the story teaches us - particularly what it teaches us about God. One child told me, "Don't listen to Eve!" and another, "Don't eat fruit!". Once, I read the story "Grumpy Monkey" to talk about feelings and how they affect our responses to one another. A child piped up, telling me, "I know all about that! My mom is just like grumpy monkey!" On another occasion I asked them how many disciples there were - and a child answered, "thirteen!" I said, "Who is the thirteenth?" and they replied, "There's twelve, plus me!" While their faith is certainly not my accomplishment, encouraging them in our services and giving them a part of the service specifically for their faith, and their questions, and their participation is absolutely my joy. In a time which can seem hard, the kids remind me of all that is good, and funny, and joy-filled about God.
Since COVID, has the number of worshipers grown? Stayed the same? Went down? We have grown! Both congregations are small, but both have grown a little. At St. John's we have the benefit of worshipping outside, distanced by family group, which keeps everyone feeling safe. At Maluhia we had been worshipping in person until August, and then the Council made the decision to move online, so we worship over ZOOM. I wasn't part of either congregation pre-COVID, so I don't have a comparison other than the numbers in the books. For both congregations, they had periods of supply-priests, and I think just having someone who is settled and committed to staying for awhile has been really stabilizing.
What are some of the new offerings introduced during this time? St. John's did a Christmas gift collection for Ka Pa'alana preschool, began a food pantry, completed two fundraisers, and collected school supplies for families in the parish. Folks in this congregation are incredibly generous. We have also begun to talk and pray about our old chapel building - dreaming about what it might look like to build a new space for worship.
At Maluhia, we re-started two vital outreach ministries - Kids Klub and One Pot One Hope. Though both are currently on hiatus for August, our Kids Klub raised $2,000 for a matching grant from the Synod, and was able to purchase two laptops. We hope to expand our twice monthly programming to be able to offer tutoring for our keiki. God is at work on the Waianae Coast!
What are your future plans if the pandemic restrictions continue for another year or two? I would like to work on creating a hybrid service for both churches, so that folks are able to participate in church even when they might not be physically in the space. I would like to grow our outreaches in both churches - because God is always calling us to care for our neighbors. I think pandemic restrictions often bring a sense of grief and fear - and I want to continue to learn about and trust in and preach about God's hope, and God's faithfulness!
To learn more about both congregations, visit their websites: St. John the Baptist HERE and Maluhia Lutheran HERE.