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Three Years Ago...

Three years ago today… on March 14, 2020… the world closed its doors. At noon, the Elders of Lenape Valley Church voted to ‘cancel’ in-person Sunday worship for the next day. The office, the preschool, the weekday ministries- all of Lenape Valley Church closed. It was the only decision that we could make to protect the welfare of our people, but it felt counter intuitive. When the people of God face the brokenness of this world, we do it best together… we stand strong together. But in the face of what quickly became a world-wide pandemic, we found ourselves isolated. Some of our most vulnerable members huddled behind the walls of their home completely alone, with no one to share the darkness. As the pastor of our faith community, I fell to my knees, and while I prayed our tech guys got to work. In a matter of hours, they designed a way to livestream worship from our sanctuary, from a hand-held iPad onto Facebook Live into the homes of our people. The next day, less than 24-hours later, our worship team gathered at LVC to lead our people in our faith community’s first virtual worship. The sermon that day, planned 8-months earlier, was entitled Mountain Moving Prayer; the final hymn, chosen weeks before- Great is Thy Faithfulness. We thought we were moving into uncharted territory, but our God had already gone before us into this new pandemic wilderness.

Who could have imagined that one of the most important tools we would need to navigate through this pandemic wilderness would be social media? Not me! I am old-school in ministry and in my personal life. I like face-to-face encounters not messages sent through the airwaves. My personal Facebook account hasn’t been active in years, and honestly, I only created the account to see pictures posted of my granddaughters. I don’t have an Instagram account and have no idea how to use the one the church has. I can do the basics of email and I have learned to zoom over the past few years, but I prefer in-person meetings and face-toface pastoral encounters. For two years leading into that ministry-changing decision in 2020, I had been the one to ‘table’ the Session decision about investing in livestream technology. I believed that we had ‘other mission priorities’ that took precedence. I kept saying that we would invest in livestreaming ‘later’. And then ‘later’ suddenly had to be NOW! Thank God we have a tech team of guys who love exploring the social media world I avoid.

I must confess, I treat technology as a necessary evil that I use as a last resort. And social media often feels like a world of danger and deception, where conspiracy theories and cyberbullying can thrive. In the social media world, we see only the carefully manicured side of one another, leaving many feeling less in comparison. Like many in my generation, I angst about our children being sucked into a virtual vortex, and grieve as their parents join suit, finding families behind their screens rather than spending time with one another. I have carefully avoided engaging in social media, preferring to offer the personal touch, but that avoidance has not served our faith community well. My personal bias against social media has held us back from exploring a vital tool needed in the mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Now, more than ever, that good news is needed! It was social media that allowed us to continue as a worshipping community even when the world closed its doors. Through social media we are able to offer Facebook Prayer gatherings that defy the isolation of closed doors. Social media enables our online worship gatherings to offer chat rooms where people can greet and celebrate and pray for one another even at a distance. It was the social media platform TikTok that students at Asbury University used to spread the news of the revival happening on their campus, and over 100,000 people joined in that God-inspired movement. The social media that can be a world of danger and deception can also be a world of connection and possibilities.

Enter the newest member of the Lenape Valley staff- Kyle McAuliffe. He starts this week as the Social Media Coordinator for LVC- charged with the responsibility to explore and develop our social media presence. Kyle is a junior at DelVal University, majoring in environmental science with the goal of working with the EPA to remediate contaminated sites. He is in the leadership of many student-led organizations on campus, including the Soil Judging Team (only at DelVal would there be such a team). His twin brother Kurt is a junior at Penn State, studying another aspect of environmental science. Kyle loves to help people solve problems. He owns a cat named Pickles. And he plays clarinet in the DVU symphonic band. The band is where Kyle met Leah Weidemoyer, leading to an invitation to LVC for worship in April of 2022. Since then, Kyle has been a regular in our worship and mission experiences. From this description, you might be wondering what Kyle’s qualifications are for the job he has just taken at LVC. Like many in his generation, Kyle has grown up in the social media world, so the world that is foreign to me is home to him. He navigates his school, volunteer, and personal worlds through social media. Like the rest of our tech team, he is self-taught and loves to explore the ever-expanding virtual world. Kyle’s first dive into Lenape Valley’s current social media presence immediately revealed to him areas of concern and opportunity. His initiative and ambition, combined with his faith and love of Lenape Valley, led our Elders to unanimously choose Kyle to lead our social media charge.

I hope you will take a moment to welcome Kyle to our LVC team. Please hold him in prayer as he begins this important work, stretching our ministry out beyond our walls.

With you, excited about God’s new stretch for our ministry!
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