ASHLAND Staying connected is the priority for churches in the area as services and programs are canceled and events are postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
For example, Keith Katterheinrich, pastor at South Ashland United Methodist Church, wants to keep his congregation connected without helping spread the virus, so he’s planning a different approach.
After researching its legality, he ordered the equipment he needs to broadcast Sunday morning’s service on an unused, low-power FM radio station so attendees can sit in their cars in the church parking lot and tune in.
He expected his Amazon.com shipment on Friday; if the equipment works, it will be the answer to his prayers.
“I had a church member who sent a link to a Baptist church in Lexington who started doing it because of coronavirus,” Katterheinrich said, noting he tried to call the church but hasn’t gotten an answer.
“Then I started thinking through all the possibilities,” he continued. “I thought about FM radio, so I researched it and then started searching for the technology and found a low-power FM transmitter on Amazon that would work. It’s low enough to let you do it without a license.”
During the service, prayer requests will be texted and ushers with buckets will collect the offering. The service also will be on Facebook Live.
His Wednesday Bible study will occur through the use of Zoom, similar to a conference call.
He said earlier this week he would know by today if the equipment arrived and/or worked and will notify his congregation then.
“The congregation still needs community interaction, especially in light of normal life being upset,” Katterheinrich said. “If drive-in church works, I’m going to remind my folks not to get out of cars and shake hands and hug people.”
Plaza Community Church has canceled all services and activities through April 5, for now. Pastor Paula Sergent has been posting Facebook videos containing encouraging messages throughout the week. She will upload a sermon and have it ready for viewing on the church’s Facebook page on Sunday at 11 a.m. Sergent said it will also be burned on a DVD for distribution to those who don’t watch online.
Katterheinrich said he expects to make use of texting to keep the congregation connected.
At least one program will remain face to face.
The church’s helping ministry, called Stephen Ministry, aims to provide spiritual care to those facing difficult times.
“I called one of my leaders yesterday and asked if they’d be willing to handle care in the midst of this crisis, whether it’s grocery shopping for the immune compromised, and one of the leaders said absolutely.”
Plaza’s church board is doing something similar. Each board member is assigned to a group of elderly folks who can’t get out.
“They’ll just call them, check on them, go to the drug store for them,” Sergent said, “and bring them food if they need it.
“There are people at our church that won’t go anywhere,” she added. They won’t even go out and get their mail.”
Sergent, who has been Plaza’s leader since 2015, says she looks forward to every service, but especially Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.
“It bothers me because Easter’s coming up, and I say no church will have an Easter service,” Sergent said — at least, she noted, not in the traditional sense. “I hate it for the kids. We always have a big Easter egg hunt.”
Katterheinrich said he stays in touch with the congregation about cancellations, but also provides words of comfort.
“I cited II Corinthians 12:9, which says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me,’ reminding them we as a culture are living in a time of weakness, but God is still a God of grace and His love is sufficient in these times of chaos.”
Said Sergent: “You know, there’s a plus to this. How many times do families in this country get to sit and eat together? Play together? Pray together? As families, we can use this time to bond. You’ve got to find the positives.”
While Rose Hill Baptist Church canceled services beginning Sunday, pastor Matt Shamblin continues to offer a message via Facebook Live, as he did this week’s Wednesday night service. DVDs of services also are delivered to shut-ins and those who don’t have internet access, Shamblin said.
The youth group met via Zoom while remaining at home and the children’s ministry provides Sunday school literature by delivering it to the families’ porches.
Shamblin said church staff members are spending less and less time in the office, but they are working from home and are on call and may be reached if needed.
“The hope in Jesus Christ compels us to stay connected,” Shamblin said. “People are very discouraged. People are very scared. People are very down, and the church has a vital role to leading them to hope. Jesus Christ’s resurrection gives us hope in the darkest situation to keep us going, even when the world around us is changing.”
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