Churches con­tinue with on­line ser­vices

Some churches be­gin to re­turn to in-per­son ser­vices

Times Standard (Eureka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Heather Shel­ton hshel­ton@times-stan­dard.com

Sev­eral lo­cal churches will be re­open­ing their doors Sun­day for par­ish­ioners to at­tend in­door wor­ship ser­vices.

Places of wor­ship — closed down in March amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic — were given the OK last week to re­open with safety mod­i­fi­ca­tions in place. Ac­cord­ing to state guide­lines, at­ten­dance must be lim­ited to 25% of ca­pac­ity or 100 peo­ple, which­ever is lower.

Last week, Faith Cen­ter in Eureka — which last held in-house ser­vices March 22 — led the way as one of the first area churches to re­sume ser­vices in the sanc­tu­ary.

“Al­though the church never closed, the build­ing did,” said Matt Mess­ner who, along with wife Heidi, serves as lead pas­tor of Faith Cen­ter.

“Be­ing to­gether again, even with all the lim­i­ta­tions and safety mea­sures, felt re­ally good,” he said. “Many peo­ple are starv­ing for con­nec­tion right now, and many Chris­tians are long­ing for a wor­ship ex­pe­ri­ence that goes beyond the iso­la­tion of wor­ship­ping through Zoom, livestream or tele­vi­sion.”

Mess­ner said the church con­sulted with the county re­gard­ing the safety mea­sures that had to be in place to as­sem­ble. “They are hold­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia state guide­lines for the as­sem­bly of churches, which we fol­lowed,” he said in an email in­ter­view with the Times-Stan­dard.

Faith Cen­ter has been min­is­ter­ing ex­clu­sively on­line for the past 10 weeks. Ser­vices are also shown Sun­days on KBVU (28) at 8:30 a.m.

“The chal­lenge (of this) is miss­ing out on the in­ter­per­sonal con­nec­tion of be­ing to­gether,” Mess­ner said. “Also, there are some peo­ple who lack in­ter­net tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing it chal­leng­ing for them to stay con­nected.”

He added: “Go­ing fully on­line has been a lot of work and a great chal­lenge, but our staff has re­sponded with adapt­abil­ity, cre­ativ­ity and flex­i­bil­ity. Our reach as a church has ac­tu­ally in­creased dur­ing this time.”

Faith Cen­ter has other min­istries such as its chil­dren’s min­istry and Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery pro­gram that have been us­ing Zoom and so­cial me­dia for their con­nec­tions. The church has been post­ing daily videos on its web­site and started a weekly email for church mem­bers.

Mess­ner says there were a few chal­lenges with last week­end’s first in­door ser­vice at Faith Cen­ter, but mostly peo­ple were happy with the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“There were chal­lenges like wear­ing masks and lim­it­ing at­ten­dance, but there was a sense of joy grat­i­tude and re­lief that came from be­ing back to­gether,” he said.

Cur­rently, so­cial dis­tanc­ing is in place at the church and chil­dren must sit with their par­ents at the ser­vice. Peo­ple who have health risks or are symp­to­matic in any way are en­cour­aged to watch ser­vices live at home. Ser­vices are live-streamed Satur­day at 6 p.m. and Sun­day at 9:30 and 11 a.m. at www.eu­rekafaith­cen­ter.org, on Face­book Live and through the church app.

COURTESY OF FAITH CEN­TER

Heidi and Matt Mess­ner are the lead pas­tors at Faith Cen­ter in Eureka.

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