DANVILLE — Although most churches will be empty today, ministers are using modern technology and other means to spread the word of God.
“God is everywhere,” said Rachel Miller, one of the ministers at New Life Church of Faith and its administrative assistant. “We request everyone pray at home and read your Bible at home. We want everyone to be as safe as possible.”
New Life and other churches in the area have canceled services for today and the near future in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They don’t know when in-person services will resume, but hope the restrictions are lifted in time for the Easter celebration next month.
Some of the larger churches are streaming their services live on Facebook, their websites or YouTube. For members without Internet, ministers are mailing their sermons or offering other resources.
Many churches had services last week, but took special sanitary steps.
Catholic churches were directed by the Most Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, bishop of Peoria, to suspend all public Masses, effective March 14.
Cindy Harden, church secretary at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, said the Mass will be streamed through the church website. For those who don’t have that capability, the bishop is encouraging people to watch EWTN (Catholic television network) or find other resources.
The bishop also set guidelines on funerals, baptisms, weddings and other activities, which can be found at https://cdop.org/
Jenky wrote in his letter, “I urge you to be patient and faith filled. Cling more closely to the Lord, and be sure to pray together at home among your family and friends.”
DINNER CHURCH CHANGE
At Family Church in Holiday Hills, Pastor Rob Susman said Sunday services haven’t been held in about a year. Instead, the church offers a program at 5 p.m. Saturdays, when anyone is invited to enjoy a meal, worship and listen to a brief, Bible-based message.
Last night, the dinner part was canceled and will be for the near future, but anyone who showed up was invited to stay for a community prayer. Prayer is needed now more than ever, he said.
Small groups continue to meet at the church, including a retreat this weekend. Extra sanitary precautions are being taken, such as people washing their hands and sitting apart from each other.
“We want to serve, but we’ll play it by ear,” he said. “We’ll do the business of God — he’s bigger than this.”
Family Church plans to resume its Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. Palm Sunday (April 5), and Susman hopes to have services then. The sanctuary is large, so people can keep a distance from each other.
The church has begun a project to move the pews so there’s more space between them. That project is designed to accommodate the handicapped or people with medical needs, he said; however, that move will work out well with the health department directive that people maintain distance.
The church will sell some of its 16-foot pews (which may be cut in half); call Susman at 597-3893 if interested.
NEVER LOSE FAITH
At New Life Church of Faith, Rachel Miller said Sunday services are canceled for now, and Pastor Thomas Miller’s sermon will be live-streamed on the website. Members are being asked to check on each other, and people who are anxious may call the ministers for comforting words.
“Never lose faith in God,” Rachel Miller said. “He’s getting our attention for real.”
People need to keep praying, she said, and in time, the virus will go away. “This is a first; it’s serious,” she said of the outbreak.
DO WHAT YOU CAN
At last week’s service at The Rock Church, sanitizers were set out and people were asked not to give hugs and handshakes.
Today, there will be no congregation in the sanctuary, but Pastor Randy Downing’s sermon will be on the website and Facebook. For those who don’t have Internet, his notes will be mailed out so everyone can stay connected, co-pastor Bonnie Downing said.
Also, members will reach out to the older members who don’t have text or email.
Mostly, she said, “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.”
Besides the Sunday service, all group meetings during the week have been suspended for the time. The church is putting everything online, and is considering a YouTube channel.
The Downings are encouraging members to stay in touch if they need assistance or prayers. People may text, call, email and keep in touch through Facebook, The Rock Church app and the website.
It’s important to maintain connections, Downing said. It’s one thing to be physically isolated, but people don’t have to be isolated in other ways, she said, suggesting they make phone calls or send texts.
Like others, the Downings hope to celebrate Easter.
“Miracles happen. Jesus rose from the dead,” she said. “The God we serve has resurrected from the dead and we will celebrate wherever we are.”
The Sunday service at St. James United Methodist Church also will be shown live on Facebook, according to the Rev. Randall Robinson, pastor. The sanctuary will be empty, but the pastor, organist and hymn director will be present.
“We’re assuming we’ll have hundreds of people watching,” Robinson said.
The bulletin was mailed early so people may follow along with the readings at home and sing along.
Normally, St. James has four services, but there will be just one service at 10 a.m. for the time being.
Robinson has told the congregation that decisions will be made week-to-week as the situation evolves, but the changes probably will be in effect for an extended period of time. Easter services probably will be online.
STUDIO SET UP
Second Church of Christ recently set up a studio so ministers can record the services. The Sunday service will be live-streamed at 9:20 a.m., and can be seen on the web, Facebook and its YouTube channel.
Also, the church has purchased time on WDAN Radio to air the audio only at 10:30 a.m. today.
“Some seniors are not Facebook savvy,” lead minister Greg Taylor said. “This is a way to get the message out. We try to figure out the best way to make (the service) available.”
Second Church started its online service last Sunday. “We felt like it was important for us (to do this last week),” Taylor said. “We want to be good citizens and still get the message out.”