Richland County’s churches and faith communities are uniquely impacted by restrictions on large assemblies suggested or required by federal and state authorities. In response to those guidelines, most in-person services have been canceled.
At the same time, many individuals are seeking the potential comfort to be gained and lessons to be learned from joining in those centers of worship at a time of great anxiety.
The answer? Congregations are heading to Facebook and YouTube to provide virtual church experiences — some for the first time.
On Sunday morning, for instance, the congregations of the Episcopal Church in the area — Grace in Mansfield, St. Mark in Shelby, and St. Matthew in Ashland — combined to broadcast a morning prayer service at Grace Episcopal Church on Bowman Street. A small number of clergy and musicians came together and the event was streamed on YouTube.
Other churches are broadcasting services, often recorded in near-empty sanctuaries and with social distancing in place. For instance, the Sunday worship experience at First Congregational Church on Marion Road had only the pastor, a pianist, a reader, and two sound technicians present; it can be viewed here (click on Worship in the top menu, and then Service Recordings).
Some churches that regularly broadcast online are now using that tool and canceling in persons services for the time being. In a message on Facebook, the lead pastor of Crossroads, Dave Vance, suggested in a Facebook talk that at the present time the best idea was to “…pause a little bit longer” based on the recommendations of the CDC and governmental bodies. The public services at the church’s facilities in Mansfield, Lexington, and Shelby did not hold services on Sunday and have canceled all other activities in their buildings until re-opened.
Not surprisingly, these congregations are conducting outreach programs to reach those in need at a particularly important time. As Richland County prepares to stay at home, its faith communities are obviously prepared to continue to make a difference.
Photo: Grace Episcopal Church, Mansfield/1812Blockhouse File Photo