Church doors opened wide for many congregations in the Severna Park area in June. After months of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, church members were excited to be reunited with their church families, even if they must worship six feet apart.
These reopenings have not happened without changes, however. Many churches have been forced to think creatively as they have tailored their services and ministries to avoid spreading the virus and keep the parishioners safe.
Here are a few ways that local churches are staying connected during a pandemic.
Severna Park United Methodist Church has formed a task force to help prepare for safe and gradual re-entry. The church is holding a mid-week service limited to 50 people or less, and some of its small group Bible studies (including a group studying the relationship between race and religion) will begin meeting soon. For more information on any services and the church’s COVID-19 precautions, visit www.severnaparkumc.org.
Severna Park Baptist Church is hosting a three-day Family Fun Fest from July 20-22 (rain or shine) with COVID restrictions. The event will be held outdoors and offers fun for the entire family, including crafts, stories, music and more. The church will require masks of all attendees (except young children) as well as six-foot distances between all attendees. Church members will sanitize restrooms between every use and provide hand-sanitizing stations.
“This is a time and season when everyone is struggling,” said senior pastor Dave Brown. “We are trying to provide hope and encouragement but also a sense of safety by following CDC guidelines.”
Like most others in the area, SPBC began using livestreams and YouTube to broadcast Sunday services, and Zoom for discipleship, such as Bible studies, and fellowship opportunities. For more information on the services and ministries, visit www.spbcmd.com.
Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church will host a virtual Vacation Bible School and virtual kids’ camp this summer. The church will provide children with physical materials that are “screen-free, encourage outdoor activities, and minimize demand on parents.” Access to the church’s online program will accompany the materials.
Additionally, Woods is offering an email-based 21-day racial justice challenge. Those who sign up will receive an email with the 21 days of challenges designed to “raise awareness about the perniciousness of racism and encourage action in response to that awareness.” There are adult- and teen-themed challenges.
For more information on services and ministries at Woods Memorial Church, visit www.woodschurch.org.
Severna Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church is hosting an online “adventure week” for kids from July 6-10. Families who register online will receive a supply kit full of family science projects and access to the online daily devotionals. SPEPC is also meeting at 50% capacity in church services and using Centers for Disease Control-recommended safety measures to avoid spreading germs. Along with in-person services, the church uses livestreams and Zoom meetings to keep the church’s family members connected with one another.
Lighthouse Baptist Church is carefully following all of the CDC guidelines (including masks and temperature checks) and taking reservations online for seating at each service. The church is also opening its activity rooms with large screens to use as overflow seating. The Rev. Paul Arcand stresses, however, that when guests without reservations show up at the church, they are still welcome as long as they sign off on a written list of COVID procedures that the church is taking. Arcand said he is trying to keep his flock and community healthy and, more than anything, that “Jesus is still lighting the way through all of this!” For more information on Lighthouse Baptist Church, go to www.LBC4me.org.
Silas First Baptist Church is still not meeting in person yet, but the church has online and Zoom services on Sundays and Wednesdays. Those without computer access can listen to the service over the phone by calling 1-605-313-5480 and entering code 213982.
Trinity Bible Church switched to virtual services during the shutdown, but with the first in-person service happening on June 7, the Rev. Stephen Mitchell is proud to see new members embracing their faith.
“It was a hard adjustment going from preaching to a crowd to preaching to an empty sanctuary,” Mitchell said, “but we adjusted, and in some ways, I think the shutdown brought us closer together as a church, family and community. We look out for each other more, we've gotten to know each other more, and it was a surreal experience as many would tune in to watch our services who would probably consider themselves far from what we believe. There has been an openness to the gospel.”
As for safety protocols, TBC has roped off some pews to ensure social distancing, required masks, and added more hand sanitizer. Currently the children’s ministries are closed, but Mitchell hopes to see that change soon.
“We have about half our church coming in person and half tuning in virtually,” he said. “It's definitely a challenge unlike any other, to effectively pastor and connect as a church, but I also see this time as an opportunity unlike any other for us as people of faith to rise to this occasion of uncertainty and instability with the assurances that come through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
TBC meets Sundays at 10:00am for Sunday school and 11:00am for service. Learn more at www.trinitysevernapark.org.