YORK COUNTY — Many area church pews sit empty, but the faithful have been filling the online and in-vehicle pews.
Standing at the pulpit, men and women of the cloth have been delivering their services to their parishioners – and anyone with an internet connection.
Arbor Drive Community Church of York is no exception. “Currently we are putting out a weekly home worship guide on Saturday evenings on our website, having a mid-week Zoom meeting,” said Arbor Drive Community Church Pastor Jon Hawkins.
With technology come challenges. “There is definitely a learning curve,” said Pastor Michelle Kanzaki of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cordova. Trinity has been offering church services via Facebook – something the church hadn’t previously offered.
In terms of online worship-sharing, little has changed at Bethesda Mennonite Church in Henderson, said church office manager Cindy Friesen. “We’re pretty techy over here,” she said. “We’ve always live-streamed every service.” Bethesda also has a radio broadcast. There have been a few changes, however. “We’ve gone to Zoom for just about every meeting,” Friesen said. Bethesda’s Bible studies now utilize the online meeting app as well. “It looks different, it feels different, but we’re getting through it,” Friesen said.
In addition to reaching the faithful online, area pastors and priests are utilizing traditional practices with a twist. Trinity Lutheran Church is offering “drive-through communion” – Kanzaki, armed with hand sanitizer and donning rubber gloves – delivers communion to her parishioners in the comfort of their own car.
“Having the meal reaffirms the fact that God is with us. His holy spirit can dwell within us and give us comfort,” Kanzaki said.
Arbor Drive Community is also reaching out beyond the screen, while maintaining social distance. “Pastors have been keeping in contact with members and attenders through various means to check in on them and see how they are doing and if there are any needs,” Hawkins said. “A majority of the ministry that is happening is taking place in the context of individuals praying for, encouraging, serving and loving each other in practical ways.”
Bethesda parishioners are also offering help to their community beyond walls and screen. “We’ve had people call and volunteer to deliver groceries to the old generation, and things like that,” Friesen said. At Trinity, for the time being food pantry items are still accepted – but receive thorough sanitation.
Hawkins said his church members and leaders have been able to adapt to the constantly-changing COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been amazed at how we as a church have all taken ownership of caring for one another and ministering to one another as we are called to do in Scripture in new ways as this situation has developed,” he said.
Keeping cohesion in their communities of faith is paramount, Hawkins said. “Paul talks about the church as being a body with different parts. Each person has an important ministry within the body and each person’s ministry is important.”
In times of fear and uncertainty, faith and unity of church bodies are needed more than ever, Kanzaki said. “I think we all need someone to lean on during this time, when we’re so isolated. If we know God is with us, He can get us through this.”