By Janis Fontaine
Just as the response to the coronavirus varies in different cultural, social and political arenas, the same is true in local churches. The one thing they share is a desire to serve and help, and they are on the front lines when families are in crisis.
Here’s what’s happening at some churches.
At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, Father Paul Kane reports that “our Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida has mandated closure of all churches at least until there is a 14-day, gradual decrease in COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County. So far, our numbers are not heading in the right direction.”
Kane says the church has a reentry plan that gives details on the protocols it will follow when it is deemed safe to reopen for in-person worship.
In the meantime, Kane says that online giving, the backbone of the church’s community support, has increased. People who used to put cash in the collection plate have signed up to give online. The congregation’s needs have increased as well, but its members have stepped up to help.
Kane says the complexity of the pandemic, and the myriad issues driving the demand for church support, make everything harder to manage.
“Consider,” he says, “we’re dealing with the health and well-being of our congregants, especially those living in nursing homes and crowded public housing facilities; the mental health of our entire community, especially those who live alone and those who suffer from addictions; the strain on our health care system; the economic impact, especially on small businesses and newly unemployed people; and the spiritual impact of not being able to gather in-person for worship.”
To help, Kane says, “Our clergy provide ongoing pastoral care by phone, and we have six ministries who have dedicated themselves to praying for those people on our parish prayer list. We have also initiated a Prayer by Phone ministry, with prayer partners available five days per week.”
Kane said the church hadn’t lost any members to COVID as of mid-August, but members have lost family, friends and co-workers to the virus. The prayer partners have been especially helpful to people who are grieving, he said.
Advent Lutheran Church reports in-person worship resumed at both its locations — Boca Raton and Lantana — under CDC and local guidelines. In Boca, attendance was increasing in August.
One happy first: Andrew Hagen, lead pastor for Advent Life Ministries, says the church performed its first socially distanced baptism in the church since the crisis began.
Hagen says donations are up slightly over previous years.
At Unity of Delray Beach, the Rev. Laurie Durgan reports, “We’re keeping members and guests close via digital virtual means.”
Programs to help keep people connected include:
• Sunday: Guest speakers and meditations, minister talks and children’s videos and music by musical director D. Shawn Berry and soloist Daniel Cochran.
• Tuesday: Prayer services
• Wednesday: Meditation services
• Thursday: The Morning Prosperity Class with Charlene Wilkinson (phone) and the Lunch Prosperity Class with Dymin Dyer (Zoom).
If you need prayer, listen to new prayers on the Dial-a-Prayer line at 561-900-2559, email a prayer request to email@example.com or speak to a prayer chaplain at 561-276-5796. Info at www.unityofdelraybeach.org.
In early August, Pastor D. Brian Horgan of St. Lucy Catholic Church in Highland Beach says divine intervention woke him in the middle of the night to alert him to an electrical fire in the rectory, “right outside my bedroom door.”
The parish priest likes to play the radio to fall asleep at night, and the radio, plus the breathing device he uses for his sleep apnea, prevented him from hearing the smoke alarm. Instead, he says, God woke him.
Horgan tried to use a fire extinguisher he keeps on hand to fight the flames, but the fire was too big. He called the Fire Department, which quickly traveled the quarter-mile to the church to take care of the blaze.
“The place is mess,” Horgan said, and his clothes all smell like smoke, but he’s grateful.
“I was very lucky,” Horgan said. “I used to joke about divine intervention. I don’t anymore.”