Churches go online in face of pandemic


By Aimee Hancock - Miami Valley Today



MIAMI COUNTY — Following a statement from President Donald Trump on Sunday, announcing the extension of federal social distancing guidelines to April 30, churches are deciding how to continue regular church services, as well as how to handle long-planned Easter events.

Many local churches had previously announced to their congregations that in-person worship services would be held online via Facebook Live, or other technological avenues, for the time being.

Troy United Methodist Church has canceled all in-person services until further notice, according to Pastor Chris Heckaman.

“We’re rethinking everything,” he said. “We’re ramping up our digital and social media as fast as we can.”

Heckaman said the church will offer two services each Sunday, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., via Facebook Live. Each Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m., a video prayer time will be live-streamed.

A free community breakfast will be served each Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m., at the First Place Christian Center. All orders will be to-go.

Heckaman said Easter events for this year are canceled, with no exact reschedule date available as of now.

“We were looking to partner with Lincoln Community Center this year, and we had another type of Easter outreach we were going to do, but that got canceled, so we’re trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate Easter when we can all get together again.”

This weekend, in celebration of Palm Sunday, the church will offer a “drive-thru palm blessing.”

“Family units can stay in their cars, drive straight through the line, and we’ll give them some palms — we’ve got all the gloves, tongs, and disinfectant ready, and our staff will be spread 10 feet apart,” he said. “Each member of the family will get a palm, we’ll pray over the family, and our staff will be there to say hi, so they’ll be able to interact with each other again.”

Those interested in participating in the palm blessing can enter through the south parking lot via the Cherry Street drive, from noon until around 2 p.m., or “until the line is gone,” Heckaman said.

The Valley Church, with campuses in Troy and Piqua, will hold services via Facebook Live at 9:15 and 11 a.m. These recorded services are available to view anytime during the week, and can also be viewed on the church’s website, at www.thevalley.church.

The church has also provided members with online resources, including videos for kids of all ages, conversation guides for parents regarding subjects including how to manage fear and anxiety during a pandemic.

According to a message on the church’s website to members from Mark and Jessica Coulter, pastors at TVC Troy, the Easter Eggstravaganza has been “suspended” and will be rescheduled to a later date.

“We care about our towns and cities and are loving our neighbors by taking steps to protect them,” the message states. “We are not being fearful. We are being responsible, wise, and caring.”

Fields of Grace Worship Center, in Covington, has canceled its annual 25,000-plus Easter egg hunt, which was scheduled for April 5, but according to Pastor Don Solin, the event will be rescheduled.

“What we’re hoping is we will have it sometime either in May or June when everything clears up,” he said. “We don’t know when that will be, but we want to do that for sure.”

Solin said instead of having in-person services for Palm Sunday and Easter, there will be recorded sermons for church members to view online, as well as regular services via live-stream every Sunday, at 9 a.m., which can be accessed by visiting the church’s website, at www.fieldsofgrace.org, or Facebook page.

Sonin said church staff is working to keep communication strong between its congregation in the hopes to assure members that “they matter” and that although the church itself is closed, there is still support for those who need it.

“There’s a quote by Hyrum Smith, which says, ‘When your daily activities reflect your governing values, you experience inner peace,’” Sonin said. “As Christians living our values, this is a time where we really come to terms with what we value and what matters. When we’re pushed to that limit, great things happen.”

According to Pastor Steve Gekllatly, of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, in West Milton, will also hold its Easter egg hunt and services until a later date and is providing online church services, which are posted to the church’s Facebook page and on Youtube.

Troy Life Community Church of Troy has canceled all in-person events and services until further notice. The church will provide video updates each Friday, at 2 p.m., and Sunday sermons, at noon each week, which will be available through the website www.tlctroy.com.

First Lutheran Church, in Troy; Brandt United Methodist Church, in Tipp City; Troy’s Church of the Brethren; Victory Baptist Church in Piqua; St. John’s United Church of Christ, in Troy; First Baptist Church in Troy; and First Presbyterian Church, in Troy, are all offering online video worship services for members via Facebook.

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By Aimee Hancock

Miami Valley Today

Reach the writer at ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.

Reach the writer at ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.