Alta churches trying to meet the needs of their members

Friday, April 10, 2020

Alta church leaders continue to forge ahead in taking care of their members while obeying directives on social distancing during Coronavirus.

Northwest Christian Church will continue to forego in-person services at least through the end of April, and Pastor Ben Michaels is using primarily Facebook and YouTube videos to stay in touch with his congregation. “The church is not just a building, it’s a group of people,” he emphasized in a recent video.

Michaels suggests people look at church messages and videos on facebook.com/nwccalta, watch You Tube videos that he posts, and access the church website at nwccalta.com. He posts updates, devotionals, Sunday service walk-throughs and sermons on those sites.

“I would encourage you to think about this time as an opportunity to be closer to friends and family and loved ones through remote means,” he said, adding that Facebook is an ideal way to remain close to others as well as picking up the phone and calling.

Pastor Karen Berg of United Methodist Church is doing her part. “I’m doing a Sunday lifestream service in the morning. I’ll be doing a mid-week meditation. For Good Friday, I’ll be doing a lifestream.” There are elderly members who may not like to use technology, she said, so she and others in the church also call and send notes of encouragement.

The church family works together, checking in with others to see if groceries are needed, and at times dropping off plates of cookies. “We’re caring for our people as much as you can,” Berg said. “I send encouraging e-mails and I encourage all of them,” including one in hospice. “It’s hard. It’s really hard,” she said.

Pastor Ryan Roehrig of St. Paul Lutheran Church came up with ways to connect with church members and is trying to keep it simple. Sunday school teachers send materials to families for the children, he provides daily devotions on Facebook live, and on Sunday mornings gives a sermon at the regular church time. He additionally has the videos available on YouTube. “Even if you don’t have Facebook, YouTube is an easy thing to navigate,” he said.

“It’s been really hard to do this. This is a new thing, so we’re trying to figure it out as we go,” Roehrig said.

At Summit Evangelical Free Church, Sara Anderson is the Children’s Ministry Director, and she and others in the ministry are keeping children busy with a variety of activities. “Each week we are providing a Sunday school lesson on our website for the kids to watch,” she said. They can print an activity page with discussion questions, watch the Bible story video, then discuss with the family. There is also a coloring page for them to color and fun videos for the children to watch electronically.

Palm Sunday last week also set in motion another change in church traditions. Usually the children come to the front of the church, waving their palm branches while the worship team is singing, Anderson said. “Since we can’t meet on Palm Sunday, we still wanted the kids to wave their palm branches.” Pastor Renato Jimenez and his family delivered palm branches the day before Palm Sunday, and the plan was that while the family watched the sermon online, and when the music videos played, the kids were to wave their palm branches. Parents were asked to take pictures and send them to the church so that when in-person services resume, the congregation can look forward to seeing the Palm Sunday pictures.

Churches are doing what they can until normalcy returns, learning as they go.