HUDSON -- Members of the Hillcity Church flocked to Lakefront Park Sunday afternoon for a first in a series of outdoor services held by the church.

The services were created in response to ongoing social distance recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pastor Aaron Steffen will host his sermon from the bandshell, while the Hillcity congregation maintains 15-20 feet between households.

“We’ve asked people to be kind and considerate and respectful,” Steffen said.

Others outside the church are welcome to join, Steffen said.

“We’ll try to make it as normal as possible for people who have attended our church in the past, but also we’re excited for the opportunity to be out in public sharing our faith and potentially reaching new people,” he said.

Hillcity rents space from St. Patrick’s School for its services. When COVID-19 began to impact the United States back in March, Steffen and church leadership decided to move services online.

The church has always live streamed its service, but chose to begin pre-recording them during this time.

The children's director has been posting online, and small groups have been meeting over zoom.

Hillcity was also involved in several park and pray events, where people remained in their cars but came together to pray for the hospital, schools, first responders and more.

“Social media has always been big for our church, but especially now we’ve been trying to use it as much as we can,” Steffen said.

Steffen said he’s proud of how the church has responded during this time - keeping connected virtually and gathering supplies, bringing treats and sending cards for those who need them. Still, he said, when something is digital, it becomes easy to turn it off.

“We really feel like part of belonging to a community of faith is gathering together and physically seeing each other and supporting each other,” Steffen said.

When it became clear they wouldn’t be able to do that soon in their usual space, they started to look for other options that would still be safe and healthy for the congregation. Steffen, who was born and raised in Hudson, has seen different gatherings at the bandshell, and suggested it as an alternative.

The plan was approved by the Hudson common council at its last meeting.

While Steffen said he wishes they’d be able to hug and shake hands, being together adds strength and another level of faith and spirituality.

“We’re excited about being able to do that and supporting the members of our congregation,” he said.

Hillcity outdoor services are scheduled through June. Steffen hopes the church will be able to be back in an indoor space in July, but like most things during this time, he said the plan is fluid.