Churches in the area pray for the return of congregations | News, Sports, Jobs
With a year of online and in-vehicle service in parking lots, churches and parishes across the region are slowly bringing people back to in-person worship.
Church leaders reached out to their members and reassured residents of the valley that with proper social distancing guidelines in place, worship services can be safely attended.
Through email, phone call, online announcements, and word of mouth, churches let people know that they are once again opening their doors to face-to-face worship.
The Rev. John Zuraw, chancellor of the Diocese of Youngstown, said many parishes noticed that they were not older members of the congregation – referred to by many as “Figures of wisdom” – who did not show up in person during the pandemic, but many younger couples and families.
“The challenge we face is that there are people who have become so comfortable sitting at home on their La-Z-Boy watching mass on their television or computer that it is now difficult. to bring them back in person. It was so interesting when we realized that our older members never stopped participating, but the younger ones were more often the ones who quit, ” Said Zuraw.
He said office staff and church members had called families to let them know they were welcome in person and to explain safety features such as removing sections of benches for social distancing and mask wearing guidelines.
Zuraw said that St. Rose Parish in Girard, where he is pastor, saw more and more people every week.
“With this going on for a year, some people have become complacent and don’t want to have to dress and come to church, but to stay home and watch. Our goal is to bring people back… We want them to receive the Eucharist in person ”. Said Zuraw.
But the online format continued for major events in the diocese this year, including the installation of Bishop David Bonnar.
“Mass is a very important part of people’s lives. If they can watch a Mass live or on cable TV, they can still have some comfort to watch and be a part that way. “ he said.
He said the Youngstown Catholic TV Network and the Ecumenical TV station broadcast masses.
“I think it’s interesting that people are using a variety of different approaches to reach their congregations. We all come together in different ways to worship God ”. Said Zuraw.
Bonnar said a year ago the churches entered what was “A very dark place.”
“Who would have imagined that we would be temporarily moved from in-person Masses, let alone the Sunday obligation being lifted for the safety of all,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, churches in the valley have found creative and safe ways to reach their members.
Says Pastor Nate Dukes of Rust City Church in Niles, “The pandemic has put things in perspective. It gave us a chance to see what we wanted to focus on and reach out to people and bring them back to worship.
Many Rust City members are in their 20s to 30s and enjoy interactive church worship service. They also volunteer at weekly food distributions and other church programs.
While many have remained loyal and watched the online services, members have returned to worship and sing along with other members. Dukes said that nothing can replace the members in one place and the relationships that come with it.
Pastor Matt Darrin of Howland United Methodist Church said the church began on March 7 bringing back half of the congregation.
With a new addition to the building and the recruitment of members from the First United Methodist Church closed in Warren, Darrin said he was not worried about a drop in membership.
“There were people from other churches who were watching since their churches closed, but didn’t do it online, so these church members started watching our worship services – which increased the number of views for us, “ he said.
Pastor Jim Simones of New Covenant Baptist Church in Lordstown said the church never closed but stopped having Sunday school and Sunday night service.
“We have always continued with Sunday morning worship and Wednesday night Bible study. We now have everything is now, “ he said.
“A lot of churches closed, but I didn’t feel as a pastor that I had the right to close the church… As long as someone wants to come here, we’ll keep the doors of the church open,” Said Simones.
KEEP PEOPLE SAFE
Reverend Abby Auman, Mahoning Valley District Superintendent for the United Methodist Church’s Eastern Ohio Conference, with 57 churches in the district, said: “No one expected to have to ask questions every month for a year, like: ‘How many people of what age and what health risks would congregate in what size space with what type of ventilation for how long with what degree of mask and what to distance? “
Reverend Shannon Trenton of Churchill United Methodist Church in Liberty, who became pastor of the church in July 2020, said that while the church had been online since last November, the congregation returned to in-person services on Sunday Easter.
Reverend Michael Balash, director of worship at the Catholic Diocese of Youngtown, said social distancing is maintained at all times in churches.
“I think the hope in the church is that people will come back and feel comfortable,” he said. “For those who have not yet returned, we have missed you and we hope you will come back.”