Our churches — our comfort and mainstay during good times and especially these uncertain ones — are adjusting to “new normal” confines as they rush to help fill the needs of their members and the community at large.
Places of worship may have had to physically close, but churches and staff members are creatively reaching out to maintain open lines of communication and provide for numerous needs.
Online services have taken hold, with most churches streaming Sunday morning worship, and adding resource missives for all ages, devotionals and Bible studies, along with a constant stream of encouragement.
“Historically, when nations have faced challenges and people have faced questions and fears, the Church has been the epicenter for strength, comfort and hope,” First Baptist Concord senior pastor John Mark Harrison said. “In this cultural moment, we need to have Jesus as our anchor to keep us from drifting and stabilize us in the storms of life.”
Tiffany Roy, communications director for FBC, said the church has had online services for several years, “but this is a whole new world. We are working to help out our families and letting them know we are still here for them.”
In addition to regular Sunday services broadcast online at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on FBC’s Facebook page and at fbconcord.org, they have added an 8 a.m. pre-school worship and a 10:15 a.m. kid’s worship service.
Daily, Concord Kids offers a mix of devotionals and suggested activities — one day it broadcast the Kids’ leader’s being “slimed” as a reward for the group having learned more than 2,500 Bible verses — and the church’s Bible study groups have begun meeting via Zoom, an app that allows participants to see each other.
“It’s almost like video chat,” Roy said. “It’s great because that way we can see each other’s faces. And whatever time they have normally been meeting, that is when they will meet.”
The program is free to use in up to 40-minute increments and does not require an account, except for the Zoom host.
Concord United Methodist Church, too, has long offered live streaming services for its contemporary services, but this past Sunday, March 29, began broadcasting both traditional (starting at 8:45 a.m.) and contemporary (11 a.m.) services.
They encountered a small glitch Sunday, March 22, but senior associate pastor, the Rev. Wil Cantrell, explained, “So many new churches came online for worship that one of the primary streaming providers went down for several minutes.
“So the glitch you saw on our end happened for literally thousands of other churches at around the same time. This week we are taking additional steps to build redundancy into our system that if one provider fails, we should be able to quickly get the broadcast back up using a different provider,” he added. Follow along on the church’s Facebook page or website, www.concordumc.com.
Its Recovery Ministry also is broadcast online starting at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, and its Children’s ministry offers daily devotionals every day at noon on its Children’s Facebook page. An “In Touch” video also is posted daily.
At Farragut Church of Christ, the Rev. Gabe Potter, pastor and youth minister, said, “We operate a pantry offering non-perishable goods.
“We are also endeavoring to provide transportation and food to families we’ve come to know through a downtown ministry called Hope Central,” he added.
“A small group of church members volunteered their time at Second Harvest last week, and another small group of church members went ‘hymn caroling’ this past Sunday, visiting the homes of some of our elderly members and singing worship songs outside their windows.
“We’ve encouraged our members to reach out to us if they need anything, and we’re offering prepackaged communion cups.”
Farragut Church of Christ, too, is videotaping its sermons and Sunday morning Bible classes, along with online videos and devotionals thoughts, posting on its Facebook page, as well as its webpage (www.farragutchurch.org). Adults are meeting for Wednesday night Bible study via Zoom.
In addition to livestreaming Sunday morning services from Holy Cross Anglican Church, the Rev. Myles Hixson, pastor, said he and his wife are livestreaming every day at 9 a.m. from the Prayer Book service of Morning Prayer on the church’s Facebook page, Holy Cross Knoxville.
He said all pastoral care, except for Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites, is through the telephone.
“I’m currently recording a 12-part study through the Book of Revelation,” Hixson added. “Each ‘class’ (is) released on Thursdays. It can be found on the church’s podcast (https://anchor.fm/holy-cross-anglican-church) or on the website (https://holycrossknoxville.org/home/sermons/).
Additionally, “I’m calling each member of the parish once a week. ... We have volunteers ready to mobilize to bring food and supplies,” he added.
At The River, Farragut, “We are using multiple platforms to stay connected to our church family and our community. For our church family, we are utilizing Zoom for our small groups and leadership meetings,” said Matthew Helton, lead pastor.
“For our Sunday service we are broadcasting to Facebook using their live streaming capabilities, which are then uploaded to our YouTube channel for those who choose to watch at a later time.
“When it comes to community outreach ... grocery and medicine pickup” are covered for in-need members, Helton added, by visiting email@example.com or calling 865-973-1726.
St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church has Morning Prayer Services beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings via Facebook and Yoga classes broadcast starting at 5 p.m. on Mondays.
“We will be posting a listing of Knoxville resources with contact information for anyone that may need assistance at this time on the door of the church,” said Pamela Haralson, parish administrator. Its website, www.stelizchurch.org, features its Crossties Newsletter and links to information and online live streams.
“St. John Neumann is working day to day to help keep our parishioners engaged and spiritually fed,” said Diana Brach, SJN Catholic School sixth-grade teacher and the church’s communications director. “Since the Masses are suspended to the public. ... Father Joe (Reed), our head pastor, has been streaming Mass on Facebook when possible — facebook.com/sjnknox. We also have a webpage set up to allow our community to follow along with recent updates/changes that may incur, at sjnknox.org/articles.
“We also use an app called MyParishApp to keep parishioners, especially ones who may not be on social media, up to date and engaged. This App is the full package with each day’s Mass readings, prayers, news, announcements, etc. available,” she addded.
Daniel Warren, campus pastor for Faith Promise, Farragut, said, they are picking up and delivering necessities “for immune compromised or the elderly in the Farragut, Lenoir City and Loudon areas.”
He said online services are at 5, 6:15 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m., Sunday. (every 75 minutes).