by Kyla Hurt
Most everyone has made adjustments or even completely rearranged their lives, work or business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One area affected is religion. For example, it has been since March 18 that Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield suspended all public masses and liturgical celebrations, compelling that diocese to instead “gather together” online or hold private masses, among other ways to continue the practice of their faith.
Recently, Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville opened up their doors on Saturday, May 16 from 2-7 p.m. and Sunday, May 17 from noon-7 p.m. for parishioners to have an opportunity to take the sacrament of confession. Of course, due to the active health and safety standards, the parish’s Father Tom Meyer took precautions. Along with Deacon Pawel Luczak, the two encouraged all to wear masks. The church’s temporary limit was 10 persons and everyone was to practice social distancing. Additionally, Meyer and Luczak were stationed in different sections of the church that were somewhat in the open.
Pastor Tim Kruzan of City Church, also in Jacksonville says of the COVID-19 pandemic, that the church has been most affected because, “Our people miss coming together, seeing one another in the corporate worship setting. There is something empowering and uplifting when God’s people come together. The in-person corporate worship experience cannot be substituted. We draw strength from the Lord in the corporate worship setting. We also find encouragement in seeing one another each week. Coming together in the corporate worship setting says to one another, ‘We’re still in this together.’ Our people miss the corporate ‘move’ of the Holy Spirit and the ‘touch’ of the Spirit they experience in the corporate setting. There is a refreshing that is experienced in the corporate worship setting that cannot be duplicated in other settings. Our people miss one another, they miss lifting their voices in praise together, and they miss praying together. They miss all the elements of ‘church.’
These times have been very difficult on people. It can be hard to stay in touch; it can be very easy, on the other hand, to further isolate one’s self in these times of forced isolation. To stay in touch with members of City Church and to keep as “normal” as possible, Kruzan explains, “We have kept in touch through our Facebook Live services offered on our church Facebook page and YouTube channel. As a pastor, I’ve phoned, texted, posted online devotionals on Facebook, emailed, and snail mailed just to mention a few. Our people have phoned, texted, in-messaged, emailed, snail mailed, and posted on social media outlets. Our people have delivered groceries, gifts and baked goods to one another. Our Wednesday Kidszone delivered gift baskets to our children. Our youth pastor has kept our youth connected through Zoom, texts and phone calls. Our children’s leader has mailed lessons to the children, and kept in touch with the parents to offer encouragement.”
With all the above, they are staying active – as many churches are. This is key. Oftentimes with religion, certain rituals or spiritual practices require a physical presence. So, what happens? There is a lot of thinking outside the box. To follow are some examples at City Church. Kruzan says, “We have offered communion digitally (the people supplied their own elements at home and the Pastor led the communion on Facebook Live). There will be a drive-through graduation recognition service in the church parking lot for our graduating seniors. Online devotionals from the pastor have been offered on my personal and church Facebook pages are a new addition to our ministries during this time, as is streaming of our Wednesday evening (7 p.m.) and Sunday morning (10 a.m.) services.
All churches are adjusting, not just the two mentioned here. Continue to be safe. Find more information for these two churches specifically at oursaviourparish.org and citychurchjaxil.com.