Temporarily shuttering the churches hasn’t dampened the faith
By Steven Hoffman
The Coronavirus pandemic may have shuttered the doors and forced the temporary cessation of services and Masses at local churches, but it has not damped their missions of faith and love.
“Some people think that pastors are having a vacation, but we’re working harder than we ever did,” explained Rev. Annalie Korengel of Unionville Presbyterian Church.
For one thing they are still sharing the Spirit—they are just doing it online.
Korengel was particularly enthusiastic about her church’s most recent presentation when Unionville Presbyterian joined Bethany and Doe Run Presbyterian churches in a livestream.
Korengel, Yung Me Suh Morris of Bethany and Gabby Kennedy at Doe Run united to spread the Word. “It was neat that there were three women. The people could see us and participate in singing and giving responses,” Korengal said.
Similarly, St. Patrick Church in Kennett Square presented a live stream service as well. Pastor Chris Rogers said one of his members who is nimble with technology was able to produce the service as a livestream. “Five hundred were watching. Hopefully we get more next time. The links are on the website,” Rogers said.
For the members of St. Pat’s, Sunday was not the only day to keep the church close. Rogers said he produces a video for his flock every day.
The pandemic and governmental orders to limit travel and social contact have also prompted a spirit of ecumenism locally and worldwide.
In a show of unity, churches both Catholic and Protestant responded to a call for prayers from all Christians on Wednesday, March 25. Pope Francis called on the leaders of all the Christian churches, communities and confessions worldwide, as well Christians everywhere, to join together in praying on March 25 to implore God to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic that is wreaking havoc everywhere.
During a moment in time when people are facing some great needs, the churches have not lost their mission to help with physical, as well as spiritual, needs.
Korengel said she has notified the staff of the Chester County Food Bank that they can store food there at the church if needed.
The church also has financial help in the form of gift cards for those in need.
“I am glad I have such a generous congregation. I had people reach out and ask, ‘How can I help’ Can I make calls or anything?’” she said.
With humor and recalling a recent conversation, Korengel said a woman called who said she needed toilet paper because the stores were sold out.
“I told her I could give her a gift card,” Korengel said.
“She said to me, ‘But you are the [Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce 2019] Outstanding Citizen’” Korengel said.
“I said to her, ‘It didn’t give me a pass to the toilet aisle at Walmart.’”
Down the pike at St. Patrick Church, Rogers said, “We have volunteers who will do food and drug store pickups and we have a good working relationship with Kennett Area Community Service.”
Churches are traditionally the celebrants of major life events like weddings and funerals, but the virus has had a significant effect on the churches’ ability to deliver.
Rogers said, weddings and funerals can still happen with under 10 people, but he’s waiting to find out for sure if even those are allowed.
“We had a May wedding postponed until September. I think the closing of reception halls will also force cancellations,” he said.
He added, “We had a funeral that just had the immediate family and was livestreamed to others online.”
At a regional level, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez suspended all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia effective at noon on Wednesday, March 18 until further notice.
Still, family service centers, part of the Community-Based Services Division of CSS, will continue to provide emergency food and diaper assistance to those in need and as well as those impacted by coronavirus. Seven such centers are located throughout the five-county metropolitan area and are the first point of contact for individuals, families, and parishes when they seek assistance from CSS.