A blessing in disguise

Carter Woolly and Kevin Agner

By Susan Shinn Turner

In mid-March, the 11 am worship service moved completely online, and it’s presented a unique opportunity for St. John’s to reach more people than ever.

“We’ve spent almost nine months living in very uncertain times,” says Deacon Rob Durocher, minister of music. “For worship, it’s about being thankful for all the resources that have kept us moving forward.”

That means incorporating as many different people and readers and online greeters as possible, along with instrumentalists and vocalists from inside and outside of St. John’s.

“We are celebrating our spiritual resources through the gifts of music,” Rob says. “We don’t have a 45-voice choir, and we don’t have handbells and other ensembles, but we sure are thankful for what we have.”

This time has also given our staff the opportunity to be even more creative in worship. “Drop-in” videos and online countdowns are now the norm.

“We’ve never been turned down by a community member to help us out with prayers or readings,” says Pastor Rhodes. “On at least three occasions we’ve had participants from around the world. It’s truly become a community service.”

Kevin Agner has enjoyed being a part of it all, especially the times that he and Rob have collaborated to write/perform some music together.

“The things he writes for me are really impressive,” says Kevin, a sophomore cellist at UNC who grew up at St. John’s. “He’s ventured into some things I thought were really cool. He’s definitely gotten good with putting the cello into pieces where it wasn’t before.”

Kevin has been back home since late August.

“I’m taking classes online, trying to stay focused, and still seeing some friends in town,” he says. “Rob checks in to see when I’m available and I’ve been glad to come play.”

“It’s definitely a different experience, especially from a performance standpoint. There’s no live audience, and that is a big part of it for me. It’s just a different environment than having a full church of people.”

Still, he’s gotten good feedback from his participation.

“Obviously, my family is always watching,” Kevin says. “I know people are definitely enjoying the music, and how the service is adjusting to fit the new times. It’s the situation we’re in, so we make the best of what we’ve got. For me, it’s fun to play in the congregation I grew up in.”

The same is true of Carter Woolly.

Carter moved back home during mid-March from Washington, D.C. He’s now working for Congressman Mark Walker, who’s based in Greensboro. Carter has been serving as a worship leader since he’s been back in Salisbury.

“I had conversations with my dad (Pastor Rhodes) and Rob, and we were talking about what worship would be like moving forward,” he says. “It started out with Rosemary and me with two mics. I really like what they’ve done recently with adding more choir members.”

Since Carter was in the Men’s Chorus at St. John’s, and the A Cappella Choir at Lenoir-Rhyne University, he’s happy to participate in worship as a vocalist.

“I’m one of the few people who have had the privilege to worship at St. John’s most Sundays through the summer. I feel for so many people who aren’t able to go. But this service has been a bit of a lifeline for folks.”

Carter has appreciated the Sundays when small groups of members have been able to come in, such as Graduation Sunday, First Communion Sunday, and Confirmation Sunday.

“That’s given us a bit of a congregational presence,” he says. “It has been cool to see folks’ reactions when they’ve come back.”

And he recognizes an opportunity when he sees it. Carter says that even though the 11 am service has been closed to most everyone, “St. John’s today is reaching more people than it ever has before. That certainly has been a blessing in disguise.”




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