Churches getting back to normal with some changes

Friday, November 6, 2020

With face-to-face and online options, Alta churches are beginning to resume a normal pace.

Rev. Denise Parrello is pastor of two Alta churches - First Presbyterian Church which re-opened in September and Trinity Lutheran Church which re-opened in October. “Attendance at First Presbyterian has returned to normal in the building. Attendance at Trinity Lutheran is less than normal in the building, but attendance online is still strong,” she said. “Perhaps people are guarding their own health and staying safe since the pandemic has not run its course. We are grateful for those we see and for those who attend electronically.”

“We were already streaming our service before the quarantine, but it was always an extra,” Parrello said. “Since we started worrying about the health risks of gathering, streaming has become more essential. We have offered online giving since before the pandemic, but we find it more than just ‘handy’ now.”

Trunk or Treat” at Summit Evangelical Free Church on Halloween.

Technology is a way for people to be present for each other without the face-to-face every week, she said. “ We’ve invited families to be “greeters” during the pandemic by making a greeting sign that we use as the opening graphic for our services.”

Pastor Karen Berg is pastor of United Methodist Churches in Alta and Peterson, and in mid-September they returned to the sanctuary, waiting until then to determine how successful the schools were in re-opening.

Among the congregation, “Many still don’t feel safe. There is a smaller audience now, and our services are shorter than they were before.” Everyone is required to wear face masks inside the church. ”This is about loving other people,” she said.

During quarantine, Pastor Berg quickly brushed up on new skills including technology. In a former profession, she was proficient with technology on the job, but as a pastor, she finds it more of a challenge. “I don’t like technology and it doesn’t like me,” she said.

She is impressed with church members who have embraced technology. “Even my 90-year-olds are on the computer.” Some congregants have access challenges as she has noticed that in her Alta church there is only a minority who have access to the internet.

Since she and her husband are at high-risk of contracting the virus, other church members have taken over duties which include home visits or delivering cookies. She finds it safer to keep in touch with the congregation by phone and mail. “We do what we have to do to let everyone know they’re important.”

Berg is well-aware that fellowship is integral to the faith community, and the pandemic changed her perspective in some ways about how to reach out to others via technology. “A church is not just four walls and a roof. There has been an evolution about how we think of church.” They can now reach an audience they did not reach before due to the convenience of technology.

At Alta’s Summit Evangelical Free Church, worship is somewhat back to normal.

Outside services were held throughout the summer and moved to inside services on Sept. 27th.

Attendance is good despite COVID fears. “We are running about ¾ of pre-COVID numbers,” Senior Pastor Doug Corlew said. Some members feel safer with the online programming.

Another adjustment occurred when the church family celebrated Halloween with Trunk or Treat, attracting a large number of families and kids for trick-or-treating and fellowship. It was held in lieu of their traditional indoor carnival, and the weather was ideal for the outdoor event.