While people sheltered in place, spiritual leaders found the need to be creative in order to bring the mountain to Mohammed.
“We miss the fellowship,” said Jason McMullan, pastor of the Williams Community Church, now that people are staying home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “We miss the congregating. We miss being able to hug each other.”
The Ministerial Association of Colusa County, a group of 20 church leaders, have been coordinating their community outreach efforts since the stay at home orders were put in place. The pastors have been working together to ensure that the churches are able to broadcast their services on the internet. As they bring the Lord’s house into the homes of their parishioners, people have been attending in greater numbers than in person.
Don Joel, of Arbuckle Community Church, said that he had over 60 digitally attend the live broadcast of Sunday service, and, afterwards, the numbers continued to grow to over 100 views.
Similarly, Ken Edwards, pastor of the Colusa Assembly of God estimated about 80 in virtual attendance and 100 views post service. McMullan said his analytics reported having about 400 views.
“With all the churches going online, you have to pretty much avoid church, because it’s coming to you, wherever you’re at,” said Joel. “You don’t have to get up and get dressed to come to church. It’s available to everyone.”
Monday through Friday, Joel does an evening prayer online. On Friday night, the youth group internet conference was attended by17 youths. In addition to the Sunday service, Joel also hosted an online family game night.
“The one issue that we have, though, is the Internet is so bad that a lot of times people trying to watch can’t really watch as well as they can listen,” said Joel, who circumvents the problem by uploading only audio. He also streams at a lower quality to take up less bandwidth.
Joel added, “We come (to church) to grow spiritually, but we also come to help each other grow. That’s part of the problem that we’re losing the churches. We need to make sure that we build those communal aspects into our ministry, even when we can’t get together.”
Edwards quoted A.W. Tozer, author and pastor, who said, “A scared world needs a fearless church.”
“There are a lot of people that are really scared,” Edwards added. “We believe that when everything is shaken, you need to have something that doesn’t move, and that’s our faith and God.”
Edwards uploads his videos to their website and to their youtube channel. The Colusa Assembly of God are also keeping their food pantry open for those in need.
Catholic masses have been suspended, but the Sacred Heart Parish churches were open for a few hours of individual worship. Instead of holy water font at the entrance, a bottle of hand sanitizer. On the doors, a notice of a maximum capacity of 10 people and those who enter should keep a six-foot distance. Father Victor Gutierrez broadcasted Sunday mass on the internet for those that wished to hear the liturgy. Our Lady of Lourdes are also offering daily mass online. OLL added Thursdays as a second distribution day from the food pantry in anticipation of a greater need.
Jimena Beltran, a parishioner at Sacred Heart, said it has been a difficult time and is sad to not receive the Eucharist, and that her children enjoy being altar servers.
Members of the Williams Neighborhood Church have taken their faith to the internet, including Sandy Cardozo, who said her son set her computer up to attend service. She and other members have taken on a new ministry of sewing together masks for healthcare professionals.
In Williams, McMullan’s congregants were not hindered from their ministry on Thursday for their monthly distribution of USDA commodities. The distribution was manned by 12 new volunteers, who took over for the volunteers over the age of 60. He said that the quarantine has allowed the opportunity for the faith community to rise to the new challenges.
Commodities were also handed out by Daniel Reagan, pastor of the Stonyford Community Churc, along with Judy and Frank Elliot, on March 19. Reagan has spearheaded the Stonyford COVID-19 Relief Fund, consisting of the entirety of the church’s income. Meanwhile, the “Living Room Church” service was broadcasted online, then published on their website.
McMullan said that the darkness of our situation is made brighter from the faith community.
“You can only see the light like this in the darkest of times,” he said. ■