OHIO VALLEY — Church pastors across the county will be using unconventional methods to take the Easter message to the public on Sunday, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While several will continue online services, as they have done since the stay-at-home order has been in effect, some will gather “together” as much as possible within the rules and regulations.
The Mason (W.Va.) Park will be the scene of two services, a sunrise one by the Mason United Methodist Church at 6:45 a.m., and later at 11 a.m. by the Faith Baptist Church in Mason. The services will be “drive-in” style, with families remaining in their vehicles. Maranatha Cornerstone Church will also be holding a drive-in service in their parking lot at 628 White Church Road in Letart, W.Va. at noon.
Pastor Josh Waybright of Faith Baptist said his church is excited for Easter, even more so this year than in the past.
“The separation we have been experiencing reminds me of the separation the world had from Jesus for the three days He was in the grave,” he said. “But Sunday we celebrate that Jesus is no longer separated. He has risen.”
The Faith Baptist service at the park will be broadcast to those attending over FM radio, so people can tune in from their cars. It will also be on Facebook Live and posted afterwards to the church website. There will be live music, preaching, and celebration that Jesus is risen, Waybright said.
Other churches will continue with Facebook Live services, such as Main Street Baptist Church in Point Pleasant, W.Va. at 11 a.m., and Northbend Church in Mason at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Northbend offered a drive-through at the church on Thursday, giving churchgoers the elements of Holy Communion for a joint rite during the early service.
Among others going on Facebook Live will be LifeSpring Community Church in Point Pleasant at 10:30 a.m., and four United Methodist churches from the Point Pleasant/Southside areas that have joined under the name “Point Pleasant United,” which will have services at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The group is made up of Beech Hill, Bellemead, Heights and Trinity churches.
Aside from Easter, the pastors said this time has been challenging, and has led them to be innovative with their ministry and discipleship.
“This has been challenging specifically from the view of the pastor,” said Pastor Rob Grady of Main Street Baptist. “While we normally have a live feed of services, speaking to only a camera has been difficult. It’s hard to know if you are reaching anyone when instead of their face, you see a camera.”
He continued, “However, this experience has been powerful in building our church community. Sometimes churches overemphasize the church building. That’s been removed. What is left is people and Jesus. It really is an amazing thing to watch. Our small groups have been using technology to still gather together. We are talking and sharing more with each other. And we are starting a testimony challenge, in which Christians video themselves giving their testimony of salvation and journey with Jesus. The testimony is then shared on our Facebook page. The pandemic is terrible. Sickness and death are never God’s way. But God is using this pandemic to build His church.”
Pastor Jordan Decker of LifeSpring church said the stay-at-home order has led them to be innovative with ministry.
“We have done a few weekly virtual small groups through ‘Zoom,’ and some video devotionals and interactive posts through social media,” he said. “We have begun a ‘Care Call Team’ to ensure that everyone in the congregation receives a check-in call at some point each week, and also created an experimental Home Worship Guide to try to shift the center of worship from the Sunday online service to the dinner table in homes.”
Mason United Methodist Pastor Sarah Lowden said she has been posting short videos to the church Facebook page, holding Bible study by conference call, and recorded prayers that are sent out through a phone service, as well as sending out a letter each week.
“We have all been missing the ability to gather together,” she added. “Nothing compares to face-to-face contact. We are all longing for corporate worship time, for hugs and handshakes.”
Racine United Methodist Church is planning a “drive-in” service at 11 a.m. on Sunday utilizing the Southern Local schools parking lot, according to the church Facebook page.
Individuals will be required to stay in their vehicles and park one space apart to practice social distancing during the service. For more information on the service plans visit the Racine United Methodist Church Facebook page.
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at email@example.com.