Church and faith are core facets of life that have been disrupted for many during the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as local parishes transition to online services, many Jordan residents are having difficulty being cut off from their faith communities — pastors included.
“I feel like I’m starving my children — I can’t give them communion,” Father Neil Bakker, pastor at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, said.
As Easter approaches, churches are preparing to celebrate one of the most sacred days of the Christian calendar in isolation.
“It’s interesting that this is happening during Lent, which we in our tradition consider a time of wilderness, of journeying,”
“As a shepherd of His congregation, it’s frustrating to not really be able to be with people,” Hope Lutheran Pastor Steve Thompson said.
“It’s just not going to be the same it all, it’s very weird to hold mass and preach to no one other than a camera ... I don’t get the visual feedback — you get used to people nodding when you’re talking,” Bakker said. “That’s been more difficult. I found that I’m way more nervous preaching to no one than to a crowd.”
The pandemic may be uncharted waters, but live streaming services isn’t a foreign concept for every parish. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has already been streaming services for some time. St. Paul’s Pastor Jeremy Glowicki has also been releasing a weekly podcast during Lent.
St. John’s has also put their live streaming technology to other uses — funerals being chief among them.
“We’ve had a lot of funerals actually,” Bakker said. “That’s where the streaming has been really helpful because we can only have a group gathering of 10 people and that includes me, the funeral director, usually a lector, pianist, singer — so we hardly have room for the family.”
While the technology helps, Bakker said, it still doesn’t make things feel normal.
“We had one funeral where the family actually sat out in their cars in the parking lot and watched on their cellphones,” he said. “In the end we all went up to the cemetery in a procession. Over there, they all came to the casket one at a time. It’s all very different, kind of strange.”
Many churches need to adjust their collections practices as well. The St. John’s live stream broadcasts a phone number to which parishioners can text the word “GIVE” to begin the process of setting up an online contribution.
“We dipped in collections for a couple of weeks but this week it was up and more than it normally is, so we’re hoping things are rebounding,” Bakker said.
Thompson said about two-thirds of Hope Lutheran’s congregation was already signed up for automated giving. Others are sending in or dropping off contributions.
In addition to managing sweeping changes to church operations, pastors are still taking time to stay in touch with parishioners who may not be able to access live streams or are having greater difficulty during the crisis.
“They’re definitely down. They’re sick of being cooped up,” Bakker said. “They’ve done all the things they could possibly do to keep themselves satisfied. It’s deepening a spiritual hunger they’ve had already.”
Thompson said one of the more heartening experiences throughout this is seeing members of his congregation check in with each other and offer help.
“I’m seeing a lot of heartwarming ways people are caring and looking out for each other, picking up groceries for people,” Thompson said. “The whole meaning of community is caring for others in times like this and it’s happening.