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Preaching during pandemic

Churches adapting to an unusual situation

The St. Peter Cathedral is seen in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — Where would churches be without their congregations? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when crowds aren’t the best idea or even allowed, connections still are possible.

Lake Superior Christian Church, located along M-553 in Sands Township, is connecting with its congregation through an online Sunday service.

As with other local churches and businesses, the doors have been closed, said Cory Eberhard, the church’s executive pastor.

“Thankfully, this church had invested a number of years ago in an online structure, so we’ve been streaming for some years now,” Eberhard said. “So, we really didn’t have to change what we have been doing for the last several years as far as scrambling to try and put stuff together to still be in contact and in connection with our congregation.”

Cameras and software have made the online streaming possible, he said.

Justin Landis, teaching pastor at Lake Superior Christian Church, provides streaming Sunday services at the church, located in Sands Township. This ability has allowed the church to adapt well to the new COVID-19 scenario. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

This past Sunday, however, was the first time the church had been in the situation where streaming was the only way people could see a service at home with their families, Eberhard said.

Justin Landis, the church’s teaching pastor, has found the situation to be unique from the typical way of talking to churchgoers.

“Engaging with a camera versus engaging with an audience — people — is very different,” Landis said. “It’s forced me to be energetic in a new way and a new form and communication style.

“It’s kind of exciting, though, too. Almost has little bit of a television feel to it, which is interesting with the production level, but it has really forced me to be specific about how I communicate and to carry out the energy and the atmosphere we’re trying to reach.”

Eberhard surmised that even after restrictions on crowds have been lifted, people still might be apprehensive in attending church.

In the meantime, though, the church still needs donations. People can donate at lscc.tv/give, he said.

Landis said the online response to streaming was “pretty surprising” this past Sunday.

“It’ll be interesting to see how engagement continues,” Landis said.

Eberhard acknowledged people now must be encouraged and given a different way to worship.

“These are times when the church and the people in the church need to step up,” he said.

Other churches affected

Other churches have announced the suspension of services.

Bishop John Doerfler of the Diocese of Marquette has suspended public Masses in the diocese, which covers the Upper Peninsula, through April 5. All Catholics are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass during this time.

Doerfler came to this decision through much prayer, and in light of the governor’s executive order restricting assemblies to 50 people, according a news release from the diocese.

He wrote to parishioners, “Given that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life, I have taken this extraordinary measure with deep charity for the personal welfare of all of you. During this time, I and the priests do not abandon you. We pledge to find ways to reach out to you to express our love and concern, even if this be remotely.

“During this time, there are also many ways you can support your parish by touching base with parishioners who are homebound or sick, assisting a neighbor with an errand, by encouraging and supporting each other and praying daily for everyone impacted by the pandemic and or are suffering from any illness. By sharing the Gospel in your words and actions, you can bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to others at a time when it is deeply needed.”

Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette posted a response to COVID-19 on its website at messiahlutheranmqt.org.

It read: “Our Council and pastors have unanimously come to the decision that we will not gather for public worship services for the remainder of March. This is out of an abundance of caution with particular regard for those vulnerable to this virus. Until Friday evening, our intention had been to go forward with our weekend services with increased protective measures, but that no longer seems prudent.

“It is natural to want to gather close as a community of Christ during these times. Being without worship and community activities feels counter to our usual way of being Christian community. We know there will be disappointment at this decision, yet we also know we have the faith and means to continue to care for each other as Jesus teaches us. The way that we will be community for one another in the coming weeks will be different, but we will do our best to be connected.”

The church said it has canceled all public worship services and events through April 3, and will update the situation the week of March 30.

A Service of the Word, which will take place at 8:45 a.m. Sundays, will be led by its pastors and church music staff and will continue to be broadcast on the radio at 101.9FM, but without a congregation in the sanctuary. This service will also be live-streamed on the church’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/messiahlutheranmqt.

Bulletins for this service will be available on its website and Facebook page. The radio broadcast can be found later that day at https://sunny.fm/sunday-church-services-on-sunny-fm/. Similarly, the Facebook Live video will be viewable on the Facebook page.

First Presbyterian Church in Marquette reported that it will offer online services only effective Sunday.

Mitchell United Methodist Church in Negaunee has canceled all church gatherings until the end of March.

“This is a decision by our Bishop that all United Methodist Churches in Michigan are adhering to,” reads a Facebook post from Pastor J. Albert Barchue.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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