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Church gathers in kayaks, canoes for creative worship on water amid pandemic

Church gathers in kayaks, canoes for creative worship on water amid pandemic

Faith United Church of Christ members in kayaks and canoes in the reservoir at Bald Eagle State Park. | Twitter/Rev. Jes Kast

A Pennsylvania church is drawing rave reviews online after its pastor allowed members to gather for worship in kayaks and canoes in the reservoir at Bald Eagle State Park.

In a Twitter post two Sundays ago, the Rev. Jes Kast of Faith United Church of Christ, which shuttered its church building as a result of the pandemic, revealed how she met with her congregants on the water and had “Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Good church.”

“We gathered as a church in kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards and prayed on the water. I preached in a kayak. First time ever. That was so cool!” Kast said.

Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, many churches have been creatively navigating restrictions on in-person services with the help of online platforms and a variety of outdoor gatherings that allow social distancing such as meeting in cars in church parking lots or under tents.

Gatherings using kayaks, canoes and paddle boards is another way churches are finding community.

“This is amazing! Did you use any kind of sound amplification?” Ellen Di Giosia asked Kast on the Twitter post.

“No, it seemed that my voice was loud enough for all and the water helped carry it. It was so cool!” Kast replied.

According to The Washington Post, Kast’s message that day was drawn from Psalm 24 and nature, and was about how fire ants work together to survive in a disaster. She told the congregation that ants can’t survive on their own so they work together to make their community thrive.

“We as a church are sticking together,” Kast reportedly said. “We’re helping each other out. We’re breathing together in our little pockets. We’re coming together as one to support and encourage each other.”

Responding to a question on Twitter about how the idea for the gathering started, Kast said she was simply looking for a new way to do church that Sunday when the idea hit her.

“It was purely their pastor saying let’s try a new way gathering just one Sunday. So we had the 8 a.m. kayak church and for those who weren’t able to gather then I had a guest preacher for our 10:45 Zoom service. Everyone had such good spirits!” she explained.

At the start of the service, Kast prayed that it would encourage the hearts of members and inspire their imaginations.

“If we get wet, let us have fun,” The Washington Post said she told the congregation. “If we fall in, we will remember our baptism this morning.”

Kast’s creative approach to worship, which drew a crowd of about 24, was a godsend for people like Annette Hestres who told The Washington Post that she had spent some time away from church before she started attending Faith United.

She said she was out paddleboarding one similar Sunday morning thinking how the activity would be her church. Experiencing a worship service on the water, she said, allowed her to experience something she wouldn’t have had without the pandemic inspiring the church to come to the water.

Denise Alving, a graduate student at Penn State, said she, too, sought out church during the pandemic and had first connected with Faith United online.

“Everything gets slowed down a little, and you think about what’s important,” Alving said.

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