In episode six, Major Heather and Captain Nicholas Samuel, corps officers at London Citadel in London, Ont. uncover how they're using innovation to continue their ministry of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brandon Laird 0:00
Hi, my name is Brandon Laird, and you're listening to the Salvationist podcast. Welcome to another episode of Mission in a Pandemic, a six-episode podcast that will feature insights into how The Salvation Army is adapting as we reopen during the pandemic. Today, we're going to talk with Captain Nicholas and Major Heather Samuel, corps officers at London Citadel, who will offer a perspective from the corps during mission in a pandemic. Welcome today, folks.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 0:39
Thanks Brandon, it’s good to be with you.
Major Heather Samuel 0:41
Brandon Laird 0:43
Thank you. How has London Citadel continued ministry throughout COVID-19?
Captain Nicholas Samuel 0:48
We've seen a number of changes in that, obviously; our Sunday worship like everybody else's had to change. We had the opportunity to go fully online very quickly, because just the year prior to the COVID outbreak, we’d implemented live streaming of our Sunday meetings. And so, using the tech team, who put that together, we were able to go online for Sundays. Things like women's ministries and seniors’ ministries had to suddenly close down and wait until further notice, which at the time was give us to the end of April, for the whole territory. And we've seen that extend further just because of the nature of what we're in, in the pandemic, at the moment. Youth ministries, again, kind of on hold for the physical gathering, but they've been able to do some door-to-door deliveries, online curriculum. And we also went through a short phase of doing the youth challenges until summer started.
Major Heather Samuel 1:54
Every day, they had a different challenge to do like make dinner for your family. And then there was a memory verse in Scripture reading, and every Sunday the challenge was to watch the online service and the memory verse went along with that as well. Our youth groups are starting to meet together a little more online for this month possibly doing some outdoor things depending on how things look, as we get further along.
Brandon Laird 2:24
What is reopening look like as you transition from summer to the fall time at London Citadel?
Captain Nicholas Samuel 2:31
I think the two words that we're using mostly are slow and phased. Slow in the sense that we're not in any hurry to immediately rush back to everything that we did before, because we know that that comes with too big of a risk. And phased speaks into the same kind of thing, but we're going to do what we can when we can in different ways. Our Sunday worship is going to remain online for the time being, and probably always will stay online. In addition to the physical meeting, but at the moment, there is no physical meeting. We've just transitioned from pre-recording, which we've done since March on a Thursday evening, and then releasing the Sunday meeting on a Sunday morning via YouTube. And so, this week was our first live broadcast where there was ourselves, the CSM, band of 10 people, and the worship team or the pianist each week. And so that's been good to see that change to some kind of live communication method on Sunday. Other ministries are still staying online, in some cases, others on hold, the youth programs…
Major Heather Samuel 3:46
Our youth programs, we have now gone to online, Thursday night, Sunday school teaching and that starts actually tonight. All of our young people receive the link to be able to do that, as well as our Thursday night program, which is normally a sight to behold on a Thursday evening. It's a wonderful program of music and getting together our timbrels all our YP bands because we have three YP, four YP bands really, that run on that night. They will all be moving online. Perhaps in some cases to one-on-one tutelage for the kids in their music, and we’re also instituting online theory, which seems to be something that they're interested in doing. So all of that's moving online. Our women's ministries is remaining not meeting together currently, hopefully with a weekly or a monthly online sense of some form for them. But we're still working out the details on how that is going to look.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 4:55
Our Bible study groups are meeting via Zoom beginning with the first one for the adults tonight, and then the youth ones will return to what they were doing in Zoom before the summer. Next week.
Brandon Laird 5:10
I really liked what you said about slow and phased about how you're approaching this. And a lot of people, you know, it's been six months or longer, and they just want to get back together. But it's going to be difficult to physically get back together at church. How has this affected your church life?
Major Heather Samuel 5:27
It’s very interesting because we have a number of people in the high risk category that need to actually take it easy when it comes to meeting together, including myself, with some of the things that go on in my health. I have health issues that make it a little more difficult. Interestingly, not all of them, but a number of people that would be in the higher risk categories are itching to get back together, and some that are not in that category, but understand the need to just be slow and phased. And so it's just very interesting to have that perspective on there, and we do have a number of things where people are saying, we need to get back together. And so, we try to temper that with phone calls, or doorstep visits or things like that.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 6:29
It's certainly quite the variety of opinions that we've seen in the media. And that reflects around congregations, from those who are desperate to simply see other people, regardless of anything that's going on, to those who are now afraid to leave the house in some cases. And so that balancing act of, will we see those people? We've already had a number of people, and I'm sure others in different situations have had the same thing where there are those with health concerns, who said we won't be back until there's a vaccine, or until long after that, we'll have to wait and see how the safety of the world goes. And so, it’s balancing that thing with those who are saying, right, come on, let's get going. It's quite the challenge.
Brandon Laird 7:14
And even if we do have a vaccine, some people are concerned about the rush to the vaccine and there's all those other challenges with vaccines that people have in the past as well. So, there's lots of things to balance. But I like that, slow and phased approach is probably two good words to consider in this in this season. What are some of the challenges that you guys have faced during the COVID-19 season?
Captain Nicholas Samuel 7:36
I think the biggest one was just the big shock of the change of everything, and how to handle every situation that came along, where we normally do one particular thing and all of a sudden, we can't do that; we need to do something different. For the online ministry for our Sundays, for example, the biggest change there is the amount of time it takes to put that together. Because it's no longer a case of where we will do our usual prep during the week, and then show up on the Sunday and within that hour and a half of the Sunday of communicating with the congregation, worship together and supporting each other and seeing all these people and shaking hands and got to see people. But now, you're actually spending an entire evening recording different takes of different parts of the worship team or the ensemble, and then the sermon and various parts of the meeting because those people can't be in the same room at the same time as each other. And so that's a good few hours of one evening, then the day and a half editorial process for our tech team afterwards.
Major Heather Samuel 8:50
That was what it was. And now that we've gone back to live, you still have the distance of everything in the room. But at the same time we meet an hour earlier than when we go live so that we can have a quick run through to make sure that the sound levels are all right, the visual levels so we know which camera we're looking at when, and even just making sure that we're cautious of the one way system and rehearsing the one way system to make sure that those who are involved are adhering to the protocols that way as well.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 9:28
So, beyond the actual production of putting the Sunday together, there's the concern of those who have no internet access or no device in order to join with us there. For example, one couple at the corps, who by choice, just don't do computers. And so, with no internet access at home, the lady's sister in the apartment a few floors down, would hold the phone up to the computer speakers. So that whilst they were watching the live stream, their sister could be hearing it over the phone, in the apartment. And so, it’s looking for those kinds of things those, the people who have been missed out is one of the challenges that's being faced.
Major Heather Samuel 10:18
Another challenge has been doing the pastoral visitation. We've had a few people that have had to enter hospital and of course, we cannot even go to the hospital to visit with them. And I remember, we had one where somebody had to go to the hospital, and they had no way to get home and Nick had to go and pick them up, and he had to follow all these protocols and actually call the hospital to tell them the colour of our car and the license plate number so that when the hospital brought the person out to the car, they knew which car to bring them to, and the hospital also had to make sure that Nick had a mask available, because this gentleman had just been to the hospital. So, there's that kind of challenge that we face as well. And just doing regular visitation with our congregation has been difficult as well. Because, again, you have a number who are in a higher risk category, and they don't even want to do a porch visit because of the nervousness of what could happen with that.
Brandon Laird 11:22
Those are some interesting challenges that you guys are experiencing there. It pretty much seems like anytime you go into any area of your regular life from before COVID, to the hospital, to the store, to the DMV, everything's changed. So there seems to be like barriers, and you're relearning everything. How are you guys overcoming those barriers at London Citadel?
Captain Nicholas Samuel 11:43
One of the big ministry things that we've had to re-adjust completely is what we call Operation Mobilizing Hope, which has been our Tuesday night food truck that goes out to feed the homeless at three different venues downtown. And obviously, because of the situation of volunteers being at risk and food involved, we're unable to do that, pretty much straightaway in March. And we're still trying to figure out how we're going to pick that up again, very soon. However, we're fortunate that the Centre of Hope downtown, were asked to take on the food ministry that they did with community meals from the carpark through from the emergency vehicle, some of which was funded and hosted by the city, which was fantastic. So, we were able to put a couple of our volunteer teams forward to support the Centre of Hope food ministry that way, because we were unable to do what we did. Other things that we've done, we've actually just finished last week, baking home baked goods to deliver to just over 200 households in the corps, working our way through the corps directory, there were some households we didn't manage to get to because in apartment block people who just weren't home to answer the door, and you didn't want to leave it and they wouldn't see it because they go through the driveway door. And then there are others who is the surprise find out that somebody moved house, things like that. But so, that's one thing we've been done, we've been able to do, which has included doorstep visits, because it means that you knock on the door, you put the parcel on the porch, take a few steps back. And when they answer the door, you're allowed to say hello, how are you, and just have a brief conversation for five or 10 minutes before you move on.
Major Heather Samuel 13:38
One of the nice things about that too is we were able to include our whole family because we did all the home baking here from home. The boys would help us with the baking, and would come in the car with us to do the delivery of the baked goods. It really became a holistic family ministry for us to be able to do that which was really good for us as a family during this time as well.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 14:05
And one of the other things that we did do very early on was we divided the corps directory between the members of the pastoral care council, because the number of households on there, the band members are taken care of by the band pastoral team, the songsters by the songsters pastoral team and the rest of the corps between the PCC, and so people had a list of about 16 or 20 households where they send them a card or an email or drop the phone call every three or four weeks just to kind of say hello, how are things? Make sure that all is well. So, there's been a number of barriers, things to completely re-learn in many parts of life, but some of them we've overcome, others we're still working on because we haven't found any magic answers for some things yet.
Brandon Laird 14:54
And the last question I have for you today is, what new opportunities or things that you've had to innovate that have come out during this time?
Major Heather Samuel 15:02
I think one of the innovations is looking at things that might have been done in the past, for example, reaching out to people just by presenting them with home baked goods, rather than doing an in-home visit kind of thing. Or, doing school drops instead of necessarily sending a text message or having the youth group event before school where you can talk with them, just going in and doing a back to school drop. So I think, looking back to some of the things that were done pre-COVID, but even pre-technology days to reach out to people has been one of the innovations and experiences that we're taking with us that the personal touch is still really important.
Captain Nicholas Samuel 15:51
I think one of the key things is that we haven't really done anything amazingly ground breaking, or astoundingly new. It's just been a case of we'll try if it works, it works. If it doesn't, then we'll try something else and explore. Perhaps one of the innovative things that we've seen in the territory that's kind of come from our corps is with our bandmaster also been the bandmaster of the Canadian Staff Band, he’s done some work towards the concert that we saw a couple of weeks ago from the CSB with the smaller groups. And that's the kind of thing we're going to be working on, hopefully with our corps band as well if we're still able to do that in a few weeks. And so, trying to maintain some kind of regular pattern to our season, in that we're able to share some ministry with people online, just doing things differently, but still trying to do something to reach people to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Brandon Laird 16:50
Thank you, Heather and Nicholas for taking time to connect with us and to update our listeners on how London Citadel is continuing to worship and serve your community during the pandemic. You can see their Sunday livestream at Londoncitadel.ca.
Thanks for listening to the Salvationist Mission in a Pandemic podcast. For new episodes, be sure to visit salvationist.ca/podcast. For more Army news visit salvationist.ca. And if you'd like to get the news delivered directly to your email inbox, sign up for our [email protected]/newsletter.