During times of crisis, people rely on their faith and their churches. Yet amid the threat from the coronavirus, gathering together for religious services and events is being all but forbidden. Holding mass gatherings, whether in the name of religion or for any other reason, is putting people at risk.
The AME Church in South Carolina is among those canceling all in-person gatherings for now.
The Rev. Stanley Rivers, pastor of Williams Chapel AME Church in Orangeburg, states: "We're trusting God to bring us through this situation. We fear nothing but God, but we have to take the necessary precautions. … It takes us out of our comfort zone, but the main objective is the safety of our congregants, especially our elderly congregants. We’d rather be safe than sorry.”
The church is planning to use technology such as teleconferences for prayer services and meetings.
Many other churches plan to or want to do the same.
The Rev. Judd Jordan, pastor of Embark Church, says, “Right now we do live stream our worship service on Facebook Live, but we are actually preparing to go more online, which means that we may not be physically gathering. … We’re really taking everything online. We’re teaching people how to do family worship at home by sending guides home to tell them to do that too.”
While some smaller churches indicate they plan to continue with services, there inevitably will be some people, particularly those most at risk from COVID-19, deciding they cannot take the risk of attending.
For the churches not holding services and for those wanting to reach people unable to attend services, The Times and Democrat wants to help.
The T&D has developed a digital space to combine church news, information and videos. TheTandD.com invites any area church or religious institution to participate in the free service at TheTandD.com. In this space, pastors can share their video sermons, messages or news with their congregations and the community at large.
The digital page was launched on Sunday, March 22. We hope to add many more churches over the coming weeks. Videos or information will be updated as received.
Any church or institution that already posts videos online can send a link; for those that do not currently post online, The Times and Democrat staff will help work on the best avenue to relay that information to us. Contact Kyla Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number 803-533-5542, or Amy Bryant, email@example.com, phone number 803-533-5514.
In one shared space, the public is able to view video sermons or messages, as well as updates on scheduling and activities and other information concerning the specific church. A link to the page will appear on the homepage of TheTandD.com.
In announcing the new service, T&D Publisher Cathy Hughes said she heard a lament from one person about the coronavirus even taking away the church. It doesn’t have to be. While those people are being advised against coming together physically as a congregation, they can come together safely via technology.
Hughes states: “Your assistance in spreading the word among your friends, your sharing this opportunity with your individual church leaders and your participation in viewing your church’s information on The T&D website will all help keep our churches’ messages active and strong during this trying and challenging time.”
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