A picture is worth 1,000 words. Prairie City First Reformed Church Pastor Jason Taylor is using chalk murals, drawn directly on the church’s exterior brick wall, to help bring to life his message while speaking on video to the congregation, who watches from home, unable to fill the pews due to the pandemic.
With churches closed for in-person activities, moving sermons online has become the trend for the Sunday message. It was around Easter, on Palm Sunday, Taylor started to incorporate the visual along with his words.
“When I was a youth director in Pella, we had a courtyard at the church made of brick and the middle school youth group would sometimes make big chalk murals that tied into Sunday morning worship. One time, a student did a time lapse video of the group making the chalk drawing and it was really neat to watch,” Taylor said. “I figured most people would rather watch something other than my face for 15 minutes every week online, so it’s been a fun way to supplement the sermon.”
Taylor also uses a time lapse video to tie the theme of the sermon into the art. For Palm Sunday, he created a picture of Jesus riding on a donkey and on Easter he had a picture of Jesus’ scarred hands.
“It just plays in the background and is timed to the sermon,” Taylor said.
During an unprecedented time in history, the church has had to be creative to have the congregation feel together. Taylor said he has been amazed by how those in the church community have reached out to each other and even taken on new roles during this time.
“We’ve had congregational members — some who would never want to stand up on a Sunday morning and speak — read scripture, sing and pray for our online services. Our community food box is being continually stocked by the congregation and is used on an almost daily basis,” Taylor said. “What’s been amazing to see has been the folks who go the extra mile to reach out with cards and messages, participate in drive-by birthday parties or prayer drives, fundraise for those in need or sew dozens and dozens of masks to make sure everyone who needs one has one.”
While the separation has been tough, Taylor has found the congregation has been very supportive of staying in touch. Whether through phone calls, postcards or more than a few Zoom meetings for different committees, groups and classes, they are working to keep in contact, even if it can’t be in person.
Taylor has also had support from the ministerial community in Prairie City to wade through the new waters.
“To be able to talk to them all on a regular basis to compare notes and show support has been an incredible gift,” Taylor said. “This community’s ministerial association is the best I’ve worked with.”
Eventually, the churches will reopen, but Taylor isn’t sure what that will look like yet. He said personally, he would rather open a few weeks too late than too early. While some members might be frustrated by having to wait, the alternative of illness and possible death by going too early is a big factor for Taylor.
“There’s so much to consider,” Taylor said. “I think the hardest part has been trying to determine what safety measures to take that don’t exclude too many people. You want to keep people safe. Masks, double checking cleaning procedures, social distancing, hand sanitizer — it’s all involved. Reopening is going to take a considerable amount of patience, grace and compromise from every congregation until things fall into place. It won’t be a one-and-done deal.”
Until that time comes, Taylor will continue to share his gifts and the gifts of the congregation through the unique presentation.
“I love the fact that there are many besides myself that watch multiple Prairie City church services every week because of this pandemic,” Taylor said.