Epiphany Lutheran Church has faced a number of challenges common to city ministry, but COVID impacted this New York church significantly. We’ve seen the impact of thousands upon thousands moving out of the City, and part of that is the closing of church plants throughout the area. This November, Epiphany held its final public worship for the time being and said farewell to its founding pastor, Erick Sorensen.
Despite this unplanned ending to a season of church-planting ministry, something new began. Though many had left, core members of one of Epiphany’s community groups remained. As North American Mission’s Associate Director, I was privileged to meet with this group of leaders, and together they decided to launch a new form of the church—sometimes called a missional community or micro church. As the pandemic continues, more and more church bodies have been engaging in these forms of church planting. It provides a flexible, affordable, safer way to be the church.
Our new Manhattan church is meeting in the apartment of the group leaders. They gather for discipleship, worship, fellowship, and will intentionally work together to reach their local mission field. CLB Pastor Andy Olsen meets with the leaders to provide spiritual oversight for the group, and I will continue to support with coaching and resourcing.
In Matthew 16, in a conversation with his disciples, Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” We have confidence that God, the builder of the Church, promises us that his Church will continue and prevail. Even when the Church takes on new forms, his Church continues to bring the gospel and join God in his redemptive work throughout the world.
At the final worship service for Epiphany, a new work began: Viet, Johannes, and Hannah—the three leaders of this new group—were commissioned to lead this next chapter of ministry! They have started meeting together. Even as the pandemic surges, this group is able to continue as a new expression of the Church. Pray for this new church as they continue the ministry of Epiphany during the challenges COVID presents in the City.
Dr. Ryan Nilsen serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Associate Director of North American Mission.