2019: Calling Pastor Walt
“And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.’” Isaiah 12:4 ESV
In late 2019, we gave deep thanks to our Lord for leading us to call the Rev. Walter J. Harper as our new pastor. In late October, we welcomed Pastor Harper, his wife Renee, and their son Joe from Danbury, Connecticut. Pastor Walt was installed on Reformation Sunday afternoon, October 27, 2019. The Mt. Olive Congregation is growing spiritually from Pastor Walt’s insightful teaching that ties both the historical and spiritual context of Scripture. We love his care for the children and youth of the church as witnessed by his children’s messages, his teaching the Confirmation class, and his work with the children in our preschool.
At every worship service, the children gather on the altar kneelers to listen as Pastor gives an object lesson on a key Biblical truth. Children have learned that Jesus loves them and knows each of them by name, that The Bible is Jesus’s letter to us, and other Christian tenets based on the weekly scripture readings.
The congregation looks forward to Pastor Walt’s teachings and love to hear the children’s responses to his questions along with their comments. These messages are videoed each week along with the Sunday sermons and are posted on Mount Olive’s website at http://mtolivesc.org/sermons.
We are also grateful for Renee’s music ministry and her enthusiasm to be involved. In addition, Renee’s parents recently moved to Irmo from Oklahoma and faithfully worship on Saturday evenings.
2020: Worship during the Covid-19 Pandemic
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
In the spring of 2020, the entire world changed with the transmission of COVID-19, a new coronavirus with no cure, vaccine, and limited immunity. During this pandemic, the world was put on lock-down. Isolation, extra sanitation, and safety practices (practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings) were put in place. Since the CDC recommended that groups of more than 10 could not gather, all church activities, including worship, Sunday school, and preschool had to be suspended.
While the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 were troublesome and scary, our Lord did not leave us on our own. His Word and love for us was still apparent and accessible through a variety of means so that our congregation could still set our eyes on His glory and grace. For instance, Pastor Walt and the Boykins worked together to create a way to video weekly sermons using a smartphone and You Tube with the first “e church” recorded on March 28, 2020, for The Fifth Sunday in Lent. Next came Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter “e worship” for all those extra services! One of these recording sessions is pictured on the previous page.
Our secretary, Mary Keller, began emailing the bulletins and hymns to the congregation. Choir director, Karen Meetze, found YouTube videos of the service music & hymns so that folks could incorporate those into their home worship. She organized the performance and recording of special music when the YouTube library was lacking. Members recorded videos for and sent activities to the children. The congregation connected with each other through sharing photos, making phone calls, and sending cards since they missed their weekly fellowship and corporate worship. Pictured are the Dennis kids watching Pastor Walt’s Children’s Message at home.
In mid-March, the preschool, along with all schools, changed to a new model during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna, the staff, and board spent countless hours providing instruction through activity packets, video calls, and Zoom so that our precious children would continue to receive their quality, Christian education. The 2020-2021 school year registration began amidst the pandemic with our first ever waiting list!
In late April, Pastor Walt, Lay Minister Bill Boykin, Frank Osborne, Chairperson of the Elders, and Jim Crosland, Congregational President began meeting weekly to develop plans and procedures for reopening the church. Even though it was too early to determine a specific date, the team considered every angle: social distancing, sanitary provisions between services, reduced capacity in the sanctuary with overflow in the fellowship hall via streamed worship, continuous communion, entrance and exiting patterns, and whether or not to continue videoing until it is deemed safe for the vulnerable members to return to worship.
The church reopened the weekend of May 24, 2020, pictured, implementing the above safety precautions. A significant number of the congregation have returned to in-person worship, but many continue to worship at home until the pandemic settles down. A group of ladies have joined together to make free cloth masks for those who need them to help stop the spread. In addition, the Board of Trustees researched various means of filtration for the air handlers, and had I-Wave air filtration devices installed in the sanctuary and preschool.
Confirmation and Adult Bible classes resumed in September 2020, held in larger areas of the church to provide for social distancing. Pastor Walt began a new Midweek Bible Study as well. Our members were excited to have these additional opportunities to extend their understanding of God’s Holy Scriptures. Pictured is Sandy Osborne’s socially distanced Bible Class.
In September 2020, the preschool opened a few weeks later than usual in keeping with the surrounding school district’s schedule. The classes began with in-person school with one day of distance learning per week. Director Anna Brent and her staff maintain the highest pandemic safety standards and parent communication to insure a successful school year.
Because we missed our Easter Celebration, the Board of Worship decided to celebrate “Easter in October.” This day was filled with the liturgy for The Resurrection of Our Lord and all the glorious Easter hymns. Socially distanced children’s activities were held on the playground followed by an Egg hunt.
On October 25, 2020, Mount Olive added an additional worship service where everyone must wear face coverings during the entire service. These services were held at 3:00 PM on the last Sunday of each month. Many members came to the first service showing that this was a need for a significant portion of the congregation. However, in February 2021, after much discussion Pastor Walt and the Church Council decided to discontinue this extra service and, beginning in March, to make the Saturday worship service be a weekly service where face coverings were required. With this change, people will be able to worship weekly.
Middle grades and children’s Sunday School resumed in March 2021 when the spring weather arrived. The children and teachers gather outside on the playground for their weekly classes.
As the pandemic reaches its one-year anniversary, Mount Olive continues to hold worship services and to grow. Pastor Walt has taught two series of New Members Classes. Worshippers from churches that have not begun in-person worship, both locally and out of town, have found us through the LCMS church locator or from our website and social media. Church council has appointed a committee to find a cost-effective upgrade to our audio/visual system that will allow for the improved quality of our recording efforts. Pictured is Continuous Communion during the pandemic.
2021: The Future of Mount Olive
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:27-29
As a vibrant church, we know there will be growing pains; and as always, we will look to God to guide us in making future decisions that are pleasing to Him. We pray, that through The Holy Spirit, each one of us will be bold in sharing our faith in Jesus Christ, His gift of salvation for all, and God’s steadfast love and mercy, ultimately fulfilling Mount Olive’s mission, “To grow in faith and love by spreading the Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” to our community, friends, and families.
In the words of Mount Olive’s first pastor, Rev. Fred Lineberger, in a letter to the congregation on its 10th Anniversary, August 26, 1943, “We gave our all to this end; but our Heavenly Father has returned blessings for sacrifices and tears a thousand-fold.”
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV
In closing, the Board of Public Relations was tasked with updating Mount Olive’s history. In the process, the board searched through the church archive cabinet and found countless versions of previous histories, photographs, and other documents. In addition, they received anecdotal input from long-time members. The goal was to compile a detailed and accurate account. Because our history is ever changing, when further information is shared and when current changes deem necessary, this document will be revised. Thank you to those who clarified and verified the content, and to those who proofread drafts. The board will continue to work to keep our history current.
The Board of Public Relations Contributors: Susan Strouse, chairperson; Aresa Boykin, Linda Gifford, Sandy Osborne, Natalie Smith.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 NIV