methodist church

Photo by ZACK WATERS

The First United Methodist Church in Watseka is one of many local churches adapting their methods of worship with the increase of social distancing due to COVID-19.

With the rise in COVID-19 cases growing throughout the county and surrounding areas, many local churches, if not all, are looking to expand their services into a broader online platform while the need for social distancing and self-quarantining are still in place.

Whether it is live streaming church service and Sunday school classes, creating podcasts, or just being there for each other during this difficult time for people, many churches are doing their part to get their message out into the public realm by creating virtual content for worship.

One of the many local churches creating online content is the First United Methodist Church of Watseka.

“We’ve moved our worship online and we will be doing a podcast to our YouTube page and a link is on our website,” said FUMC’s Pastor Kara Berg.

The church has also broadcasted it’s Sunday service on the local radio station for many years and will continue to do so every Sunday night at 7 p.m. as well as post it on their website the Monday after.

On Easter Sunday, the First United Methodist Church will also be live streaming it’s service via Facebook Live.

“We will be doing Facebook Live starting Easter Sunday at 10:30 a.m. so you can find that on our Facebook page by searching First United Methodist Church Watseka,” said Berg.

“We will actually be having communion online like ‘normal’ to really try and keep some preservation of the spirit of our communion and community. You just need to have either bread and juice of your own because due to the pandemic, we don’t feel comfortable providing those things,” she added. “We also thought we’d bless any food item our families want to bring to that space so their celebration of communion can last in a new way.”

The church is hoping to use this new platform as a way of getting it’s message out when people may be needing it the most.

“Our vision as a church is to share the hope of God,” Berg said. “That vision will still guide us as we try to find new ways to use these online platforms to bring our community a message of hope.”

Many churches in the area are also using the web to broadcast services like St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schwer, the Milford Christian Church and Trinity Church of Watseka who have each been streaming their services as well as producing other online options for their congregations.

“Our primary message is that Christ died and rose again, and that’s the message of forgiveness and hope that we need now more than ever. So, it’s really important to show the love of Christ to our community,” said Pastor Ryan Mustered of Trinity Church.

Along with their live streams, the church is also offering many other useful ways the community can turn to in order to worship during this time.

“With Easter Day coming up, we are gifting people subscriptions to “Right Now Media” so that they can engage the Easter experience with us with a six-part video series that we are going to be going through into Easter week,” said Mustered.

The church also has a mobile app people can download where they stream the church’s services, past videos, view their online calendar and other activities. Trinity Church has also started a new daily post on Facebook called “Hope for the Morning”.

“Hope for the Morning is a daily Facebook post on our page where we have our own members share a couple minutes of encouragement and we post those online,” Mustered said. “So, instead of people waking up and seeing the death toll online, they’ll see that first thing in the morning and have some hope.”

Many churches are also offering their services in a more personal way. The St. Joseph Catholic Church in Loda, along with St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Paxton are providing their communities with assistance by distributing and delivering groceries, medical supplies, and hygiene products to elderly citizen’s front doors. The churches are working with the Ford and Iroquois County Health Departments to acquire these items and get them into the hands of those in need of assistance during this time.

The Paxton Church of Christ is also planning to have a “drive-in church” service on Easter Sunday beginning at 10:30 a.m. Cars should park in the church parking lot, six feet apart and the outdoor worship service will then be transmitted to the cars via radio signal.