ELKHART — Area churches are taking preventative measures after the state asked organizations to limit gatherings with over 250 people to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Strategies range from changing their regular routine, to live streaming services to canceling Sunday services all together.
“We didn’t want to give in to the fear,” Calvary Assembly of God Lead Pastor Brian Whidden said of his church’s decision to add a second service to divide the congregation in half , rather than canceling.
Services at Calvary will be held at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., rather than the normal 10 a.m. service time.
“There may be people who don’t attend, but we didn’t want to take any chances,” he said.
To help control the attendance of each service, the church is offering child care and spanish language translation only at the 11 a.m. service. Anyone who falls outside of those categories is expected to attend the 9 a.m. service.
The church’s Sunday service is also streamed online and parishioners are encouraged to take advantage of the videos available online as well.
Pastor Earl Smith at Beulah Missionary Church posted a live video to the church’s Facebook page regarding the church’s plan for coronavirus.
As a congregation of less than 250, Beulah Missionary said it would still be holding Sunday services. This Sunday is the church’s World Mission Day, and they’ve asked an international missionary to attend the service and speak on his experiences.
Greeters will not be shaking the hands of attendees, but they will continue to hold doors open. Instead of being handed a bulletin, they will be on the lobby tables for individuals to pick up of their own volition. He is also recommending that parishioners do not hand each other’s hand, but offer air high-fives, peace signs or bows to greet their friends.
“Whatever we can do to communicate love and acceptance to each other without making physical contact,” he explained.
Smith added that they will not be passing the offering plate during this Sunday’s service, a preventative measure that many churches are putting into place. Parishioners should instead use the offering boxes in the lobby or e-giving on the website. He added that staff members have been working hard to ensure sanitation especially of the preschool located on campus. Hand sanitizer is located in a variety of spaces throughout the building as well for all to use.
“If you don’t feel comfortable being with us, we understand and you can watch the service online Monday,” Smith said. “If you’ve been sick, we ask that you please stay home.”
As a precautionary measure, the after-worship potluck has been canceled.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend reported Thursday that it will continue to hold services but will also be making changes as a preventative measure.
According to the webpage, all area Catholic churches will temporarily suspend distribution of the Precious Blood. Handshakes will also be replaced with bows of the head and greetings of peace if desired, or the sign of peace may be omitted altogether, the church said. Congregations are also asked to refrain from holding hands during the “Our Father” prayer.
Some churches have decided to take advantage of the technology they have, closing their doors and offering live-streamed sermons.
Grace Community Church in Goshen, which boasts a congregation of nearly 2,500, said it will offering sermons at their regularly scheduled times. Since most of their services and ministries are already streaming, it won’t put too much of a strain on ministry.
“With the distance and space rules, we can’t really do anything, but we are set up in a way with technology to continue to be a church and not operate out of fear,” Lead Pastor Jim Brown said.
Both Sugar Grove Community Church and Granger Community Church have canceled all large gatherings, opting for usage of their live-streaming system to encourage parishioners to get their weekend dose of worship. Even churches without a live-streaming service on their webpage may be finding solutions through social media, as River Oaks Community Church has decided to do.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for our church to reflect Christ and know that they don’t have to be afraid,” Brown said.