Churches across the country are taking innovative steps to adapt to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the governor’s and president’s guidelines to limit gatherings to less than 10, religious organizations like Faith Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church, St. James Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church have switched gears to bring their members the safest possible ways to pray.
These four houses of worship are turning to technology to share the word of God online through social media or their organizations’ corresponding websites.
“We will for the next two Sundays — as I believe pretty much all the other churches in town are — will not have services here,” First Baptist Church Pastor Brice Mandaville said. “We will be online and doing a lot of our Bible studies all virtual over the internet. We have enough room around campus where we could divide into groups and livestream to everybody, so we feel pretty comfortable, and we’re able to do that.”
Pastor Jim Craver at Faith Lutheran Church said since word of COVID-19 began to spread, church attendance has dropped by nearly 45%.
Faith Lutheran is taking their services outside, along with providing live broadcasts.
“We’ve canceled services for the next two Sundays, for sure, maybe even three,” Craver said. “We’re toying with the idea of an outdoor worship maybe on the fifth of April. Obviously, all our churches are struggling financially because folks aren’t here, so that’s a common struggle. We’ve tried to get as creative as possible to bring solutions to it.”
St. James Catholic Church Pastor Dennis Darilek said his church’s sermons are broadcast through YouTube in addition to a Facebook page.
“We’ve always wanted to do it but never had the opportunity, and now we do,” he said. “It’s been a challenge, but at the same time, a real growth for us. There’s a lot of creativity when you have a crisis.”
Darilek said that he and the folks at St. James Catholic Church are dealing with the COVID-19 fallout day by day. Th local church closed its doors under the directive of the Archbishop of San Antonio last week.
The archbishop isn’t expected to issue another directive until around March 31, which will keep parishioners out of the pews for at least three weeks, Darilek said.
“So that’s real weird,” Darilek said. “We follow the directives of the archdiocese and, of course, our governor.”
Anyone wanting to support First United Methodist Church, can donate to the Christian Cupboard, FUMC Senior Paster Cathe Evins said.
Members can call the to make a donation or use an application called Tithe.ly and the proceeds gathered will go directly back to helping the community deal with the effects of COVID-19, she said.
Craver invited congregants to continue supporting the community through donations.
“I would say to make a donation to any of the churches in town and support their causes,” Craver said. “We’re okay here; I wouldn’t say we’re perfect and floating and everything, but there’s other needs, we are looking at some of the smaller churches. We’re actually directing our people to the Christian Cupboard to really encourage participation in helping feed folks at this time. So, if anything, I would direct folks toward the Cupboard, the (South Texas) Pregnancy Center, and the battered women’s shelter (Guadalupe Valley Family Violence Shelter.)”
Events like weddings and funerals are especially taking a hit since weariness of the pandemic began, Darilek said.
“What we’re probably going to have to do is, if there is a funeral, we just have the immediate family, have the burial, and then we do the memorial service afterward when everything is kind of okay because we just can’t have anybody over 10 people,” he said.
All four churches are monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it evolves and are still open to any who wish to stop by and pray.
St. James Catholic Church can be found online at facebook.com/saintjamescc/ .