On March 13, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Europe to be the world’s COVID-19 pandemic epicenter. We follow four stories of courage in the midst of crises.—The Editors

Web church in Denmark reaches out as never before

Copenhagen, Denmark

The coronavirus in Denmark has encouraged an entire rethink of web church. Yes, several churches had been live streaming their services, but the closure of all church buildings led to the idea of something more intentional.

When churches closed, the Seventh-day Adventist Danish Union website, Adventist.dk, streamed a countrywide service. However, following positive feedback from outside the church, church leaders decided to search the web for a general domain and, to their amazement, discovered that webkirke.dk (webchurch.dk) was available.

The union leadership bought weekly adverts on the front page of Kristeligt Dagblad, a national Christian daily newspaper. Personal Ministries and Sabbath School director Henrik Jørgensen leads out in the weekly Bible study. Lisbeth Nielsen, the pastor of the Silkeborg Church, is the principal organizer for compiling the main worship service, which includes a children’s story, music, and the sermon. As in many countries, this is accomplished remotely. “It is a challenge,” Nielson says, “but so far we have been quite successful.”

“What we are doing here is making the road as we drive,” says Jan-Gunnar Wold, Communication director for the Danish Union of Churches. “With the shutdown, people are in their homes, glued to their screens, looking for something worthwhile to watch. This made us rush to get resources together quickly for this new effort.”

One inspired church member concurs: “My age makes it difficult to attend church service. We can often see sermons online, but I have missed a ‘Sabbath School class.’ I have now with great interest followed the Sabbath School and service online. This means a lot to me.” [Jan-Gunnar Wold, TED News Network]

Adventist Social Work coordinator Giuseppe Cupertino (left), hands over the first box of N95 masks the Seventh-day Adventist Church purchased and imported from Hong Kong to support physicians across the Forlì-Cesena province. Marco Ragazzini (right), secretary of the Italian General Practitioners Federation in the province, accepted the protective equipment on behalf of his colleagues. Photo: Hope Media Italia

Adventist Church in Italy delivers 5,000 masks to doctors

Forlì, Italy

On April 9, the first 1,000 FFP2 certified masks for general practitioners were delivered to Dr. Marco Ragazzini, the secretary of the Italian Federation of General Practitioners (FIMMG) in the province of Forlì-Cesena. The remaining 4,000 were scheduled to arrive immediately after Easter.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church purchased the masks in conjunction with the provincial FIMMG, along with a contribution of 15,000 euros from the 8x1000 fund (a special fund from the citizen taxes granted to the Italian humanitarian entities). They were purchases specifically to distribute to family doctors. This decision originates from the reality that the procurement of individual protection devices (DPI) is critical in Italy, as in the rest of the world. While the country’s first supplies were distributed to doctors and hospital staff, family doctors were often left without.

Like many organizations engaged in social work, the Adventist Church, through ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Italy and in collaboration with the Municipality of Cesena, has also activated a home-delivery service, enlisting eight volunteers who assist 13 families with purchasing food and various products.

Furthermore, the Adventist Church has set up a free psychological support telephone service. Thirty psychologists and psychotherapists belonging to various professional organizations have made themselves available, as volunteers, to answer the available number. [G. Cupertino, CD-EUDNews]

Tired of Zoom? Try drive-in church

Lillehammer, Norway

After six Sabbaths of meeting by Zoom, the congregation of Lillehammer, Norway, longed for a more personal worship experience during the lockdown. As with all other churches in Norway, the building was shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their simple solution was drive-in church.

Between 40 and 50 members pulled up in the church parking lot, pointing their cars toward a temporary platform constructed outside the building. Members stayed in their cars but tuned their radios to 88.1 FM. With the assistance of technically competent persons in the congregation, worship proceeded without a hitch. Leaders and keyboard pianists led the sing-along, for which lyrics had been sent to the congregation in advance.

Pastor Joachim Fosse shared both a children’s story and a fine sermon on the most relevant of all topics: the fear of the uncertain and unknown. Fosse was a little worried that only a few would show up for the service because not many had signed up via Facebook. However, he was delighted to see the members’ desire to meet, albeit from their vehicles. “This was a very positive experience in every way,” Fosse reported afterward. After weeks in isolated worship, it was wonderful to see an alternative solution and opportunity emerge, encouraging members that they are not alone. [Edel Krøll, TED News Network]

Abuse in lockdown—Pastors train to help

St Albans, England

Lockdown has brought with it all kinds of relational challenges, including extreme loneliness, getting on each other’s nerves, and figuring out how to do work, homeschool, and family life in the small space within four walls. For some people, the biggest challenge is finding themselves trapped in their own home, 24 hours a day, with an abusive relative.

“As the Family Ministries director at the Trans-European Division, I don’t often receive calls and emails about how to deal with domestic abuse,” said Karen Holford. “But, when I received several queries in one week, I realized that we needed to respond by offering some training to our union Ministerial directors.”

The amount of training that pastors receive to help them respond well to incidences of domestic abuse varies widely across the division, and so does the level of national and local support for victims. None of them had ever received training in managing cases of domestic abuse in a pandemic lockdown context.

Refuge, the largest UK charity helping domestic abuse victims, reported a 700 percent increase in visits to its website and a 120 percent increase in direct calls for information and advice. This increase stimulated a range of creative responses to the problem.

“I was learning alongside the workers on the ground,” admits Holford. “Most had never experienced domestic-abuse situations before, so we were helping each other learn how to manage this challenge. One pastor had the creative idea to create an online Google document to share information about domestic abuse with an abused person in her home. Her abuser had access to her phone several times a day, so it wasn’t safe to send her messages. And she couldn’t search online for helpful advice unless the website had a rapid escape button that cleared the history.”

The Google document was used for sharing ideas, “chatting,” checking that she was still safe, and telling her to gather her vital documents, financial information, passport, clothes, and significant possessions in a safe place in case she needed to leave in a hurry. Through the pastor’s concern for her and the victim’s courage to speak out, this story had a happy ending. [TED News Network]

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