St. Michael’s Launches PODZ

Parish Outreach Dedicated by Zip Code

The COVID-19 outbreak presented all leaders with far more than a problem to solve. It has given us a dilemma. You can’t really “solve” a dilemma but you can flip it. Bob Johansen, author of Leaders Make the Future defines dilemma flipping as reframing an unsolvable challenge as an opportunity.

At St. Michael’s we reframed the COVID challenge with an opportunity for PODZ – Parish Outreach Dedicated by Zip Code. For 12 weeks, from September 13 to November 22, we offered Lowcountry Vespers or PODZ on Sunday evenings in six neighborhood locations: downtown Charleston, West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island, Mt. Pleasant and Isle of Palms/Sullivan’s Island.

PODZ were a way for St. Michaelites who lived near each other, but might not know each other, to get to know one another better and it was a welcoming way to invite others into fellowship. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a garden gathering in the autumn bliss of the Lowcountry?

Here’s how they worked:

  • Hosts graciously offered their garden, lawn or (in one case) large screened porch.
  • Bible teachers volunteered their gifts and talents.
  • Each location had a clergy member to lead the worship.
  • Everyone brought their own BBBLC (Bible, Blanket, Beverage and Lawn Chair). People sit with their family and those they invited.
  • PODZ took advantage of the cleansing power of God’s fresh air—and the easy distancing of the outdoor settings.
  • Seating arrangements differed based on garden and size of the gathering.
  • People gathered at 5:00 p.m. and a vespers service commenced shortly thereafter, with a brief liturgy followed by an interactive Bible lesson.
  • The lessons came from the book of Acts, providing a real look at the first churches who met in homes.
  • The entire service lasted 45-50 minutes.
  • People stayed and talked for a few moments after the service.
  • Inviting friends became the norm.

Though to some it may seem like these were small groups, we intentionally focused on worship and Bible lessons so the gatherings would be non-threatening to newcomers. We had a number of people join in who didn’t go to church at all.

In the words of one clergy member who described himself as having FONO (Fear Of New Opportunities), “Frankly, I dreaded adding one new thing—but found our PODZ gathering refreshing instead of draining.” And in the words of one of the teachers, “… I left with joy!”

To learn more about the PODZ, contact Linda Prince at lindaprince@

By Linda P. Prince, St. Michael’s Church, Charleston