Pella Lutheran Church of Sidney donated $1,500 to Richland County Food Bank on June 9. Pella Pastor Audrey Rydbom presented the check to an RC Food Bank representative at the church on Tuesday afternoon.
Vanessa Pooch (pronounced Poke) accepted the check on RC Food Bank’s behalf.
“It’s probably going to go for beans, rice, milk,” said Pooch, RC Food Bank’s treasurer. She emphasized the non-profit organization in Sidney gives those in need a lot of boxed milk.
“And we purchase meat from local grocery stores,” Pooch said. “Those are all the things we really need right now.”
The $1,500 was received as a grant from the Lutheran Disaster Relief Response for COVID-19, Pastor Rydbom explained. The church learned about the money through the Montana Synod, she said. A representative from the Development group within the synod contacted Rydbom to discuss what they might do with the money.
“Given the current events of COVID-19, it seems appropriate to assist those in our own communities who require assistance due to the pandemic,” Rydbom declared in a written statement. “Each Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran church was able to apply for grants to specifically meet the needs of our local communities.”
Pella Church accepts food donations as a drop-off center for the RC Food Bank. It seemed like a natural choice to donate the $1,500 check as well, Rydbom conveyed.
In addition to the $1,500 donation to Richland County Food Bank, Pella is shipping more than 200 handmade quilts around the world through the Lutheran World Relief center in Glendive.
“We will bless these quilts on Sunday and then we’ll get them ready to ship them out,” said Rydbom.
Before they do, a handful of graduating seniors who attend Pella will be asked to select a quilt to take with them as they head to college for their fall semester. All eight of the students were confirmed at Pella Lutheran Church in Sidney, Rydbom said, noting each student has already picked out their favorite quilt.
The women who made the blankets meet every week at the church. They work together until noon, when they break for lunch — sometimes, pizza!
“All of these quilts are made by a group of women who meet on Tuesday morning,” said Rydbom, noting restrictions put in place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the women from meeting at Pella Church.
“COVID-19 about killed them,” Rydbom said, referring to the fact the women were unable to meet, socialize and quilt together.
“They needed to get back,” she said, nodding her chin like a pastor who cares deeply about her flock.
Standing inside the silent sanctuary, Rydbom acknowledged the restrictions implemented by the state under COVID-19 were difficult to endure. Although Phase 2 has allowed the church to meet as a congregation once again, they are still limited to about 50 people each week.
Rydbom said social media has helped; but it’s not the same, especially for a church with a congregation that reportedly exceeds 500 “members.”
“Now, we are gathering through social media,” Pastor Rydbom said. “We’re gathering through technology, but we’re still missing that personal relationship. That’s hard. I can’t be with people.”
Social distancing may be necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it makes it challenging for churches like Pella to function.
“It’s difficult to share space with one another,” Rydbom acknowledged. “Studying scripture...so we can be the people that Jesus is calling us to be. You do that in relationships. God is all about relationships — sharing the faith and supporting one another.”
Rydbom said prior to COVID-19, she typically saw 100 to 125 people attending worship every Sunday. With the Phase 2 “reopening” of Montana, the church is allowed to have up to 50 people gather at one time.
“Since we opened back up, the lowest we had was 47,” Rydbom said.
This Sunday, as the church blesses more than 200 handmade quilts, it seems strange to think there will be more blankets at church than people.
Pastor Rydbom seemed to take it in stride.
“Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am with them,’” she stated softly, adding, “The power of prayer is everything.”