Local Churches Find Ways to Persevere

By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Managing Editor

The coronavirus has been a major challenge for local restaurants, recreation centers, grocery stores and Auglaize County entities such as the board of elections.

Add churches to that list.

With various orders from the governor of Ohio to the president of the United States over the last week, the accepted amount of people in gatherings has dwindled as low as a recommended 10 people and churches have been forced to cancel its services or go online.

Nonetheless, churches are persevering.

In St. Marys, St. Paul's United Church of Christ has canceled its in-person worship service for Sunday and the church will reassess each week while Holy Rosary Catholic Church announced on Monday that it has canceled all events, including celebrating public masses, with the exception of Stations of the Cross, Adoration and Confessions.

While the St. Paul’s UCC office will maintain regular weekday hours and Pastoral Care is available, the church is canceling all in-person programming including its midweek Lenten Service, which includes the church's Sunday school programming, Boy Scout activities and GED classes for three weeks. Breaking Bread will not provide dine-in meals, but staff will be outside handing out meals via a drive-thru\walk-thru method until further notice.

The congregation is asked to check St. Paul's UCC's website for weekly updates.

In its attempt to keep services going, Living Hope has made several adjustments to the growing concern of the coronavirus.

The church staff has regularly cleaned its building and is committed to keeping its environments clean and safe for its congregation to gather and worship every week. 

In addition to regular cleaning, Rev. Rick Scheer has personally gone through the building with disinfectant not once but twice this past weekend, according to his written statement on the church's website. 

The church also has hand sanitizers available in multiple locations of the building.

First Church of New Knoxville has done a little of both canceling services and still keeping that invitation out for churchgoers to still attend if they choose.

The remainder of Wonderful Wednesdays is canceled as well as all Sunday school classes for both children and adults and confirmation for the next three weeks. There will also be no nursery service for the next three weeks and Grand Adults Fellowship is canceled until restrictions are lifted.

Sunday morning worship, however, will still take place at 9 a.m., but churchgoers are encouraged to stay home and listen on the radio at T-102 FM at 10:15 a.m. if they are sick or concerned about contracting the virus.

For any questions, members of the congregation can contact Rev. Joel Bucklin or the church office at joel.bucklin@nktelco.net or 419-753-2446.

All non-worship events held at Zion Lutheran Church in St. Marys have been canceled until the end of the April and a Women’s Celebration for April 26 has been postponed, but the church is still conducting Wednesday services at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. as well as Sunday services, according to its website.

But two other churches are using the power of today’s social media age to continue their services.

While all Wednesday services and all in-person Sunday morning classes have been canceled at Faith Alliance Church in New Bremen, the church has turned to its Facebook page and YouTube channel for stream Sunday morning services to its congregation.

“Our leadership team decided it was in the best interest of our church family and surrounding communities to respect the requests that were made by Gov. [Mike] DeWine,” said Trent Fledderjohann, lead pastor at FAC. “We're a multi-generational church that has a lot of children who are all potential carriers. It's difficult because we want to model and communicate that we don't want to make fear-based decisions, but decisions that are considerate of the people around us.”

Rev. Tim Benjamin at Wayne Street United Methodist Church began conducting online services last weekend and believed the church will most likely be online for the foreseeable future as the church has canceled all of its activities until the first week of April and is hopeful that everyone can come back by Easter.

Benjamin joked that in the last 48 hours, he has learned more about different ways to use online content then he probably has known throughout his life combined with regards to how to broadcast, how to give services online and how to track certain information online. He added that he found out all of the aspects he can do on the church’s website that he didn’t know he could do.

Both Benjamin and Fledderjohann added that they have received positive feedback from their respective congregations with regards to the online services.

In an effort to support local restaurants and families in the midst of the virus crisis, FAC is giving away 65 pizzas and salads from the New Bremen Pizza Hut from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. Four people per pizza or a family of five or more can have one large and one medium pizza and the church can deliver or people can pick up pizzas in the back of the church’s parking lot. To send an address for delivery, message or comment to FAC on Facebook or call the office at 419-629-3688.

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