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Churches reach out to congregations during COVID-19 crisis

With church services canceled for the foreseeable future and Holy Week just a few days away, Webster City churches are finding ways to reach out and connect with their congregation during this COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Rev. Mark Eichler, of St. Paul Lutheran Church, said that the church is regularly posting announcements and devotions on its website, https://www.stpaulwebstercity.org/, and he’s encouraging members of the congregation and church leaders to reach out to each other by phone.

“I’m also doing that,” he said. “I’m making phone calls throughout the congregation, hoping to every week or two get through the whole church congregation and start over again.”

Eichler said he’s been spending hours visiting with church members over the phone, though it hasn’t been quite the same as seeing them at church every week.

“We miss that time together with each other,” he said.

St. Paul will continue doing its weekly radio broadcasts at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings on 95.7 FM.

At Trinity Lutheran Church in Webster City, Rev. Gina Sterk is posting daily updates and hellos on the church’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TrinityWebsterCity. She’s also uploading an abbreviated worship message at the church’s usual weekly worship times.

“And we’re very mindful of those who aren’t necessarily on social media or the computer,” Sterk added.

The church is also reaching out to members by phone and is working on organizing a phone tree, mailing out devotions and seeking prayer requests.

“We’re just trying to keep in contact however we can,” Sterk said. “It’s just kind of been learn as we go.”

She said she’s received concerns for people in the hospital who can’t have visitors, or for those who have had a death in the family but can’t have a funeral.

“We’re concerned for each other and how to stay connected and have a sense of community when things are very different,” Sterk said. “We look forward to eventually when this will pass and we can be together.”

With Holy Week starting in a few days with Palm Sunday, many Christians are feeling disappointed that services will not happen as usual.

“There’s definitely grief around that … and we share disappointment that things will be different,” Sterk said. “But I think also I see some hope in the ways that people, in some ways we’re having to trust God more or engage in our faith in new ways, but it’s even more important to kind of remind ourselves of our faith and the hope that we have and to remind each other that being in church is not just about being in a building – we can still be a community. The good news of Easter is still there, it’s just not the way it usually looks.”

Sterk said that Trinity Lutheran will upload daily videos during Holy Week and are looking for more ways to engage with its congregation during this time.

“We’re trying to get people to send in a short little video clip of their family saying ‘Happy Easter’ and we’ll try to put them all together into a greeting to share,” she said.

Overall, the churches are trying to make the best of a bad deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. For information on what other churches are doing to provide services, visit the church Facebook page or website.

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