Churches find ways to stay connected to members

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By Mark Ambrogi and Ann Marie Shambaugh

Carmel United Methodist Senior Pastor Rev. Patti Napier understands the stress the coronavirus pandemic is putting on the nation, so staying in touch with her congregation is crucial.

“We are looking for creative ways we can remain connected with anyone having challenges right now,” Napier said. “If we have someone in the hospital with a serious illness, (we are) staying connected, using phone, using different kinds of Zoom and FaceTime. We know that some of our folks are going through situations in life already, compounded by this. Also, I think it’s important to address the emotional stress and strain that this whole experience is creating with anxiety and worry and fear (and) isolation we have already.”

Napier had a meeting with her pastoral team on Zoom to discuss how to offer pastoral care and support. The top concern is staying in touch with shut-ins.

Napier said it’s important the church pulls together as a community and follow state guidelines, such as staying at home, as directed by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

“My great concern is that we look out for one another as people of faith. That’s what God calls us to do is love one another,” Napier said.

Carmel Christian Church

Pastor Jerry Zehr said church members have stayed connected with technology.

“We are able to do the service (with) Facebook Live,” Zehr said. “We’re encouraging our elders to stay connected with people and to make calls to them. I’m probably doing more of that with people. I just sent out a thing about my feelings on what we can do to find some positive things in this time when you’re at home. This, too, will pass. I think it’s helping people not be too fearful but be smart.”

Zehr encourages church members to stay connected by sharing videos from everybody’s home, whether they are celebrating an event or sharing a photo of their dog.

One thing Zehr is having trouble dealing with is the fact he can’t visit congregation members in the hospital. 

“What’s frustrating as a pastor and for the family, the hospital is on lockdown, so I can’t go see (patients in the hospital),” Zehr said. “I think they look forward to their pastor to come and be with them or bring them communion, and we can’t do any of that.” 

Mercy Road Church

Mercy Road Carmel Lead Pastor Josh Husmann said the church prerecorded services through Easter Sunday last week to have those ready to go online.

Husmann said there is a guide for devotionals, Bible study and discipleship group meetings on the website and Facebook page.

“We’ve moving all the services online,” he said. 

Husmann said there is a prayer form to fill out for a digital connect card.

“If they fill those out, we connect right away with a pastor reaching out to help or assist them,” Husmann said. “We’ve got benevolence funds we know are going to help people (in need) during this time.”

Grace Church

The church has been live-streaming worship services on Saturdays and Sundays on GraceChurch.us and Facebook Live since March 14. 

“In addition to that, we are doing regular touch points via phone calls and Zoom with some of the more vulnerable population,” said Tyler Bender, executive director of communications for Grace Church. “We are hosting a virtual prayer gathering Wednesday nights. We also are sending out daily creative worship videos featuring music, crafts and messages to kids so they can continue to worship.” 

Bender said the staff is ramping up efforts in its Grace Care Center where people can place online grocery orders.

“Our staff is taking daily shifts to stock shelves and serve people with the groceries they need for the week,” Bender said. “People are asked to simply drive up and we place the bagged groceries in their cars. (The week of March 15) we served 618 families this way. That service is open three days a week.”

Northview Church

The church made the decision March 12 to hold services online for four weeks, and officials plan to continue to monitor that.

“We stream our services each week at northviewchurch.us/watchonline,” Northview Church Communications Director Maddie Hall said. “We are thankful that we already had this process set up and could recommend everyone watch online. We are offering an online experience specifically for kids and students as well. At-home resources can be found at northviewchurch.us/next. If people would like to talk with a pastor, or they have any other questions, they can call the church between 8 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can also email info@northviewchurch.us or send us a Facebook message.”


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