“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
The famous Bible verse, found in Matthew 18:20 is, of course, referring to worshiping together.
Today, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, worshiping together for many now means doing so online. Churches everywhere are scrambling to make sure their members can still have the chance to share their messages, albeit not in the same building.
“These have been strange days for all of us as we watch the effects of a strange new virus affect country after country,” Midlothian First Baptist Church Bruce Pindle told visitors to the church’s website via a YouTube video. “Now, we need to consider what’s best for our people.”
FBC Midlothian has moved its services to online Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. (traditional), 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. (both modern). Midweek activities are also suspended. Originally, the plan for this is two weeks, but in these ever-changing times, congregations are being told to stay tuned for adjustments.
“During this transition, we have moved to one online service only and it seems to be going well so far. The transition to traditional worshipers who would rather attend in person is slowly making progress, but our church uses a lot of technology, so that transition overall hasn’t been as difficult,” said Marcus King, pastor of DeSoto’s Disciple Central Community Church.
Churches broadcasting services
With the 50-and-below group restrictions, King said his church is doing a live service and broadcast from the church. The service includes band members, singers, media staff and himself at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Weekly ministry meetings are being conducted via phone or email.
“They sing, I preach, and we try to make the online experience as personal and intimate as possible,” he said. “Our members are encouraged in the midst of it all, but we miss hugging and loving one another in physical fellowship.”
At St. Jude Catholic Church in Mansfield, they are in the process of setting up online services. In the meantime, Mass is being celebrated with a few designated ministers but no congregation. Those who do come to a scheduled Mass are being told to stay in their cars until time for communion, Communion is expected to be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. (Spanish) Saturday, and Sundays at 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. (Spanish).
At communion time, designated ministers will go out to the cars and distribute communion.
In a message to parishioners on the church’s website, Father Thu Nguyen wrote:
“Remember that my daily prayers at Mass are for all of you. May God protect you from all harms, especially Coronavirus, and may God always guide you in your faith to practice and strongly rely in Him at this moment of crisis.”
Pastor encourages listening to health experts
Pindle stressed that everyone listen to the health experts and put their personal feelings aside.
“I know many of you think this an overreaction, but I want to encourage you to respect decisions, even though they’re different from your own,” he said. “Every church and organizational leader is trying to make the best possible decision with the information they have.”
Pindle also reminded folks that they can be carriers of the virus for a couple weeks or so without showing any symptoms. He also noted that in this day and age, with many people traveling abroad, the world is connected more than ever.
“Cases nearby are so close we can’t ignore this,” he said. “We’re connected with the world in a way that supersedes any time in history, and what raises our own risks are large gatherings. Every time we gather like this, we’re raising our risk in an already risky context.”
King said a positive from the situation is that, because of online broadcasts, more churches will be in more homes.
“It will be a journey, but Christ is in more homes now than ever before. For that, we are grateful,” he said. “The methods may have changed, but the mission and message must still move forward.”