Local Churches Adapt, Thrive during COVID-19 Crisis

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Jennifer Zimmerman and her family go to Riddlesburg Church of the Brethren in Bedford County.​
She says she’s been teaching sunday school lessons to her kids during the shutdown, but wanted a way to reach kids who aren’t getting sunday school lessons.​

Every week, Jennifer and other women in the church take bags with Sunday School lessons, a craft and a snack to defiance convenience store.​

“There’s been some really good feedback, there’s been a lot of people saying thank you and a lot of people saying and a lot of kids who maybe don’t get to go to church otherwise are getting the bags, so they’re getting God’s word,” Zimmerman, said.

Jennifer’s Pastor, Tim McIntyre says not only has tithing been up in the church, but people from around the country who watch his Facebook Live sermons have been giving financially.​

“The congregation has grown all over the United States, and there have been people from other states and out of the area who have even asked for the mailing address and have sent contributions into the church, Pastor McInttyre, said.

He says he’s been reminding his congregation of Bible verses relevant to all of us in this time.

“2nd Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, I will come and heal their land and people need to get back to God,” Pastor McIntyre, said.

Pastor McIntrye says, their faith is getting them through.

“People who don’t have Jesus, they have no hope during a bad time, but when you have Christ, you have that helps that gets you through these difficult times,” Pastor McIntyre, said.

“Giving over your control to God, and when you do that, God can heal us, God can get away with this disease that’s going around and he can heal the people that are sick, he can provide for those who are in need,” Pastor McIntyre, said.

In Clearfield County, Curwensville United Methodist Church Pastor, Ethan Shearer, says giving for his church has been down. His hope is the county’s yellow phase status would allow them to bring in more funds.

“An opportunity to do more Bible study, to have some small group activity, but also to be able to think about, well how can we raise funds for our church?”, Pastor Shearer, said.

He says though they’re not letting less money hold them back.

“We’re not concerned with, primarily with, can we keep lights on?,” Pastor Shearer, said. “We’re concerned with, can we do ministry? Can we tell people about Jesus? Can we love people correctly?”

He says going to church physically makes some anxious. During this time with Facebook Live sermons, he says it’s brought a new crowd.​

“This is I think a way that folks can encounter Jesus and explore questions about god and even find different forms of community in a non-anxious way,” Pastor Shearer, said.

Margie Anderson, Church Member at Curwensville United Methodist Church, says she would be lost without the sermons.

“I was not on Facebook, until I found out that I had to be to watch the service, so I got on Facebook and yes, I’m so thankful for that,” Anderson, said.

For people who aren’t on Facebook, Pastor Shearer is hitting the phones, trying to keep them socially connected.​

“I try to spend a lot of time making phone calls, and so while I’m not able to visit the way a pastor usually would, I do my best to connect with folks who I know we’re not really able to connect with on Facebook,” Pastor Shearer, said.

Heading over to Centre County, Father Neil Dadey with Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College has been working to make sure his “flock” is Spiritually fed not only on Sundays but throughout the week during this difficult time.​

“During the course of the week, Father Johnathan, myself and Deacon Dave have about a five to seven minute YouTube presentation on the readings of the day,” Father Dadey said.

In the yellow phase, the stay at home order is gone. It is hoped at this point the church could have 25 people maximum at a time, but that decision would made by the bishop.

In Pennsylvania although churches are exempt from the stay at home order, Governor Wolf is encouraging them to not meet in person, until the stay at home order is lifted.​

He says the despite having up to thirty six hundred that would come through the doors during a weekend of mass before the pandemic, there was concern about the giving after they stopped meeting in person.

“The worry was, if they’re not getting served, they’re not going to contribute,” Father Dadey said.

It’s been anything but that.

“We have found just the opposite, our collections have been marvelous, people at Our Lady of Victory have given tremendously and even have increased some of the offerings,” Father Dadey said.

Steve McGregor has been coming to Our Lady of Victory for forty years.

“We always felt at home here,” McGregor said.

He says the Facebook live is good, but not the same.

“The parishioners participate in the mass and some of them are lectors, they read some of the scriptural readings during the mass, we have a large choir,” McGregor said. “That was the definition of a mass and I guess I didn’t realize how important all that was until I didn’t have it anymore.”

Father Dadey says it’s faith that can get you through this time.​

“Anything that it’s taught me and that I try [convey] In my messages to my congregation, the main message is we need to realize that we’re not in control, but someone is, and it’s the Lord Jesus himself,” Father Dadey said.

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