South Lansing church works to reconnect after pandemic shutdowns

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Pumpkins are lined up outside of Sycamore Creek church in South Lansing on Oct. 3.

Marah Deary

Pumpkins are lined up outside of Sycamore Creek church in South Lansing on Oct. 3. The church has begin resuming some activities to reconnect with parishioners and the community following shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic has driven many of the parishioners at Sycamore Creek Church to online services, but church leaders say they’re working to find new ways to bring the community together.

On a recent Sunday, the church’s lawn was dotted with bright orange pumpkins, placed there to give away to congregation and community members. The “Pumpkin Patio” even on Oct. 3 drew parishioners and neighbors to the church.

“What we did here is we ordered and paid for all these pumpkins, and we are setting them out like an urban pumpkin patch so people can come throughout the week and grab a pumpkin,” said Gretchen Williams, 35, who has been a part of the church for over 10 years. “It’s expensive to drive out to the country and get a pumpkin so this makes it more convenient and easier for the community to participate in the fall tradition.”

Church members and leaders say the South Lansing church, 1919 S. Pennsylvania Ave., is working again to lend a hand to the community, even though the COVID-19 pandemic still creates challenges for in-person events.

“COVID has made church a lot more challenging. We have experimented with a ton of different online options. We have tried Zoom and Facebook live,” Williams said. “For a long time, we were all just at our own homes. It has been more challenging, but it has allowed us to be more creative which has been fun for us. It has almost felt like a talk show.”

Gretchen Williams at the Pumpkin Patio event at Sycamore Creek church in South Lansing. Williams has been a part of the church for over 10 years.

Miranda Mannino, 35, has attended Sycamore Creek church since high school. 

“COVID has made things really strange,” Mannino said. “Instead of coming to in-person service, I basically just attend online with my family at dinner.”

Sycamore Creek Church pastor Tom Arthur, 46, said the church has been adapting to challenges throughout the pandemic.

“Our space looks more like a TV studio than a church. We used to do the South Lansing Art Festival with huge crowds, but now, we host smaller events with very dispersed and asynchronous crowds,” Arthur said. “We also used to do church in a pub on Monday nights, but with COVID it’s hard to gather in big groups now and we want to be cautious.

“I don’t think anything will ever go back to normal. Most churches across the nation are seeing 30-40% of people coming back to church after COVID,” Arthur said.

Church members say they have found a way to continue to bring the community together.

“I’ve made a ton of friends here and it feels like a family,” Williams said. “I love the creativity and the warm welcome. We welcome everyone here regardless of what they believe or where they come from.”

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