As the pandemic continues to rage on in America, many churches have been forced to continue with virtual programming for Sunday services. While some churches have chosen to defy lockdown orders and speak out in favor of in-person services, many have prioritized safety and public health by staying online and outdoors.
According to Rev. Susan Toone from St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Provo, the church held exclusively virtual services when the novel coronavirus first hit. Now, as things begin to open up, St. Mary's has begun to host outdoor services every other week, if the weather allows. In addition, St. Mary's has started holding a weekly Zoom meeting called Women on Wednesday. Toone described it as "more of a social gathering for those in the parish or for anybody that would just like to get together and have some time to converse and share how we're doing. St. Mary's has also stayed actively involved in the Food and Care Coalition. Since the pandemic hit, however, the churchgoers are not able to help serve meals to the community. These days, Toone says they keep in touch and donate needed items.
Pastor David Nicholson of New Community Church in Orem, also in Utah, is also holding his services outdoors. "We make it a very informal gathering," Nicholson said. "We always do our services with food in our hands."
According to Nicholson, every week the church gathers to worship and talk about the scriptures while eating. Nicholson also streams his services on Facebook Live, which he had already been doing before the pandemic. About 100 to 200 people watch his weekly services on the platform. However, one of the challenges of the pandemic has been attendance numbers. According to Nicholson, the greatest number of people that showed up since the pandemic was 25.
Mario Garcia, secretary of The Way Church in Provo said his church is holding in-person meetings with safety precautions in addition to a Facebook Live stream. "We also hold nightly prayer meetings online," Garcia said. "As a functional body of Christ, we encourage one another via online meetings and phone calls. Some members have started hosting their own devotionals online."