With COVID-19 spreading around North Texas, local churches are encouraging members to view their services online rather than meeting in person.
At Field Street Baptist Church, Pastor John Hall said their members met for services on Sunday, but after receiving more information from city officials concerning limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people they decided to have church online for at least the next two weeks.
They plan on having a worship service at 11 a.m. Sunday and March 28.
“Hopefully things will be better in the next couple of weeks,” Hall said. “Nobody knows one thing from the next. Twenty-four hours seems like an entirety right now. ... We’re planning for the worst but hoping for the best. We’re going to do our best to make the absolute best of it.”
Church members can pay their tithes online, but he still thinks this virus will affect budgets at all churches.
“I think everyone’s going to take a ding because no one’s going to know how long this will last,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t be severe. I worry about people who need a job and who live paycheck to paycheck. It’s concerning on a lot of levels. I think everyone’s going to feel the pinch at some level.”
Daniel Hawkins, lead pastor at First United Methodist Church of Cleburne, said they have suspended in-person gatherings and are asking their members to watch their services on its Facebook page. They are also teaching their Sunday School teachers how to use phone apps so they can still conduct classes.
“We are trying to continue as many gatherings as possible, but we’re gathering in a different way,” Hawkins said. “We work with our Adopt a School campus, Santa Fe Elementary School, and United Way [of Johnson County] to host a mobile food pantry at the school. We distributed food to food-insecure families that would be vulnerable during this extended time. We also have stepped up our intentionality and checking in on people to see if people need groceries or anything else.”
Members can still give their tithes through the mail or online, he said.
“Sometimes in times of uncertainly people respond differently,” he said. “Some people become more generous. This is an intentional opportunity to do things differently. In any challenge, there are opportunities to serve God and our community.”
St. Mark United Methodist Church Pastor Andy Tyler said they will do all its services online, as well as tithing.
“We don’t have the capability to livestream,” Tyler said. “We can record and put it on Youtube. We’re working towards livestreaming.”
Their members are faithful when it comes to giving, he said, and encourages them to pay online or come by the office to bring checks.
“I think we should try to look at the bright side,” he said. “This could bring us together. It could remind us that God is with us and God will bring us through it. We’ll have a wonderful Easter service whenever that will be.”
Chris Smith, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Cleburne, said they will conduct its services online for the next two Sundays, but they’re not sure about what comes after that. Members can pay their tithes online.
“We’re just praying things will pick back up,” Smith said. “We’re encouraging to continue to give so we can minister to our community. I think one of the things is, I truly believe through this virus that we can become a stronger community, a better neighbor to people that live next door or across the street from us. Check on the older folks around you.
“I think it’s forced us out of the walls of the church and into the community to minister to them. I’m hoping this will set that stage and see the need for that, even when there’s not a pandemic looming over us.”
Cleburne Bible Church Senior Pastor David denHartog said on the church’s Facebook page on Saturday that they were keeping in touch with city officials and health officials concerning the virus.
They didn’t meet in person on Sunday but said they conducted a “private” service for their own people that was livestreamed and then archived on their website.
If any members are elderly or your immune system is compromised, he encouraged them to stay at home for now.
“As stated before, if you are symptomatic in any way with a cough, fever, sneezing, shortness of breath or even allergy symptoms, or the like, please stay home,” he said in the post. “If you have been on a cruise ship in the past couple of weeks or an airplane, please stay home. If you have been anywhere in the Metroplex where you may have been in a compromised environment and subject to the highly contagious virus, stay home.”
He encouraged members to check their email and their social media sites for more announcements and updates concerning the church.
Westhill Church of Christ officials said on its Facebook page on Monday that they will hold one service at 10 a.m. Sunday and will continue to monitor changes about the virus and provide updates to members. Classes are canceled until the end of the month.