by Wiliam Bradseth
Churches that were once a place of fellowship and gathering have now been completely deserted. With the sudden arrival of COVID-19 churches are turning to social media, online services, and live streams to try and keep people involved and better their communities.
“We’re doing the best we can to keep in touch with our people. Our elder board, there’s seven of us, have split up the congregation and have been checking in on them weekly to see if there’s any needs. We’re trying to figure out ways in this time to reach the community but it’s hard because of social distancing, so just challenging people as they go on their walks or through their social media and things like that to just be engaging to people because a lot people have questions obviously about God in times like this.” said Grace Baptist Church pastor, Matthew Combs.
Churches have had to find new ways to branch out. Churches have remained involved with their members by implementing online services like Zoom and YouTube to keep the congregation active.
“We’ve had zoom small groups, zoom prayer time, and sermons on Sundays with a Q and A afterward. Everything is online. Our live stream church service is on YouTube as well.” said a local church goer, Andre Shaw III Going online has brought a completely new experience to everyone. Churches can’t meet face to face anymore, but Shaw believes the experience can be a good thing.
“Even though we’re all separate it feels like we’re all together with the same goal. So, on Sunday mornings when we’re singing worship songs, I know that a family across town is also singing worship songs as if we were altogether, it’s pretty cool,” said Shaw.
The coronavirus has presented the church with many challenges, but with the use of online technology they are able to minister to more people than ever before.
“Because of the online services that will probably continue, there will be more reach and more people will hear the messages, and the church is going to grow in general after this whole thing is over.” said Brockport student and local church goer, Caleb Fisher.
Although churches have started utilizing many different online services, church is a place for people to gather in fellowship with other believers, and this need for human connection cannot be met through the use of technology.
“I’m an extrovert to the core, so I miss people. Zoom does not satisfy my inner desire to be with people. I’m praising the Lord for that technology and being able to interact with people, but it doesn’t do anything for me in terms of my personal desire to be with people.” said Combs.
Churches all over the state have an opportunity to reach more people than ever before. Going online gives churches an opportunity to grow their congregations and share their beliefs with people who may not go to church.
“We had almost 200 viewers of my sermon, and last week on Easter was over 300, people I don’t even know. They’re tuning in and I know they’re tuning into other online services as well and that is a big positive.” said Boonville United Methodist Church pastor, Jack Ford.
While people are quarantined in their homes, churches are still doing all they can to help their local communities in a time where everything is changing. The Boonville United Methodist Church in the Mohawk Valley is using their food pantry to reach out.
“We have a well-established food pantry in our church so that’s the way we can help people in our community, by being sure they have food… we opened it for anyone, anyone who needs it can get food.” said Ford.
Churches were once a place of fellowship and gathering until the sudden arrival of COVID-19. The Coronavirus has changed the world completely and for churches across New York it’s no different. Local churches have had to learn to adjust to the changes that have come with COVID-19. Churches, like everyone else are no longer able to meet in person which has led to some significant changes in how churches minister and provide support to those around them.