A Sunday School Pandemic Journal
Our weekly Sunday School classes are a respite from the weekday world and a source of spiritual sustenance for our youngest parishioners. They help them make sense of their world, and they provide fuel for their life journeys.
Jan/Feb 2020: COVID is vague and faraway.
March: On the second Sunday in Lent, we are in church, uncertain, but suggest that the teenagers dial into Zoom.
Lockdown swiftly becomes real in New York, and classes move online. The teenagers grasp Zoom quickly while teachers struggle to screen share, use breakout rooms, and monitor chats.
April: The lockdown stretches from weeks to months. We experiment with meeting times, and different approaches. What is Zoom etiquette? How do we craft together online? We post drawings and screen grabs to our weekly newsletter to give our older parishioners some connection and sense that our children, our futures, while unseen, are still in God’s hands.
May: Even in our isolation, the world gives us no rest. George Floyd’s death stirs so much reaction for the country and for us, who live in the place where Eric Garner died. Our young people are angry, are hurt, are questioning, are fearful.
June: We drive by our graduates’ houses waving congratulations from our cars. We mourn for old rituals and create new ones.
July/August: Summer break also brings inevitable transitions in ministry. Some volunteers aren’t coming back.
September: Our new youth leaders have varying levels of confidence and experience. They’re willing to try the prepared curriculum, and equally ready to go off script if it doesn’t work on Zoom.
We are laser focused on every child in the parish, on every possible platform letters, texts, phone calls, and package and love note drop-offs: God loves you! Christ Church loves you! You may be stressed and Zoom-fatigued but come to Sunday School online!
And they do come. Not all of them, not all the time, and many with cameras turned off, but every week we play hangman, create collects and PowerPoints for our Holy Days, and watch videos from our Presiding Bishop. We move through depressions, family disruptions, and death.
Winter: We Zoom to Bethlehem for our Christmas pageant and learn about Absalom Jones. Our children interpret scripture and teach us to pray when we hear an ambulance siren.
Spring, 2021: We record the Passion Gospel as a youth play. As lockdown eases and vaccines roll out, we get our first in-person view of our 13- and 14-year-olds at their Rite 13. Our graduates stand masked before us as we celebrate their milestones. They have grown so much in this remote year. And so have we.
We do not know what September 2021 will hold. There will be transitions, but there will be Sunday School on Zoom and in person. Our weekly classes are a respite from the weekday world, where we receive spiritual sustenance from our youngest parishioners. They help us make sense of our world and provide fuel for our life journeys.