Covenant deacons and our Children and Family Ministry celebrated our Covenant graduates with spirited send-offs. Like almost everything else this spring, they were different than anyone had imagined, but Covenant did its best to make our graduates feel loved and lauded.

On two consecutive Wednesdays in late May, Covenant sponsored parking lot parades with cheering fans lining the short route. First, the deacons honored our high school seniors, inviting them with this note: “During these trying times when so many milestones of high school graduation have been canceled, we have come up with a creative way to celebrate seniors.”

The note went on to explain how “the parking lot parade” would work. The deacons followed safety precautions advised by the COVID-19 Task Force; our deacons and the graduates’ family members wore masks and were spaced 10 feet apart in our main parking lot. Our high school seniors showed up in decorated cars. The processional moved slowly through the marked area in the lot and around the circle drive. Deacons, families and staff held posters and cheered this brave group of graduates.

According to Children and Family Director Christy Milam, who is also the proud parent of a high school senior, “Parades are the new ‘norm’ in these times.”

“Seniors, parents and grandparents were so appreciative of the parade,” Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Missions Jill Williams said. “The kids were having some fun, wearing mortarboards and poking out of sunroofs with decorated cars and trucks.”

Although the deacons and friends followed the task force guidelines, Jill said, “there was plenty of space for us to let the seniors know we love them and care for them.”

The following Wednesday, Covenant’s Children and Family Ministry hosted another parade, this time honoring our grade school graduates.

Christy Milam said her ministry usually works to slowly transition graduating fifth graders into sixth grade. “This is a very special time for our fifth graders and something that COVID-19 prevented us from sharing,” she said. “May would have been filled with introductions to our new Middle School Director, Jake Pluenekke, and to the fourth floor of the Fellowship and Education Building so the kids could get to know the space before moving up in the fall.

“The last time the children were together at church, they did not know they would not see the faces of their friends, small group leaders and parents for an unknown amount of time. This is hard on anyone, but particularly difficult for kids to process, and it can cause anxiety and sadness. The fifth-grade leaders and our staff decided that we had to find a way to celebrate them.”

Leaders, families and Student Ministry Directors Jake and Ali (Bolsinger) Gradert came to cheer on and support the fifth graders as they drove through the parking lot; Christy handed out bibles and the student’s favorite candy, a bookmark and note.

“We were super grateful that the deacons paved the way by having our COVID-19 task force approve a protocol for the senior parade that could keep all the participants safe!” Christy added.

Christy reported that the parade was “absolutely” a success. “Fifth-grade parent Kazzye Martens sent a message later that evening: “Thank you for doing the parade! It was a bright spot in all the darkness for the kids.”

In fact, Christy said that some people are suggesting it’s a new way to celebrate and we should continue moving forward. “The parades are fun and festive, and they really do make the recipients feel special!”

Summarized Jill Williams after both parades, and graduate recognition in the online “Covenant Prays’ bulletin and in worship: “Under adverse circumstances, we have done a remarkably good job of celebrating our graduates in different ways.”