DuBOIS — Several DuBois area United Methodist Church pastors will be undertaking ministry in a new way beginning this Sunday and in the coming weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The pastors — John Emigh of DuBois First UMC, Corben Russell of Mt. Zion UMC, Brett Dinger of DuBois Lakeside UMC and Kendra Lovelace Balliet of Home Camp UMC, Luthersburg UMC and Salem UMC DuBois — will be joining together to broadcast Sunday services live from the DuBois Lakeside UMC.
Starting this Sunday from 9:30-11:30 a.m., live streaming will be available at the website — DuBoisLakeside.org. Sunday School will be held from 9:30-10:30 a.m., while live worship will be held from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Both will also be broadcast on local radio stations 96.7-FM, 99.7-FM and 1420-AM. Teleconferencing will also be available by calling 877-309-2073 and using the access code: 248671981.
“It’s new and different but exciting that we get to work in new ways together and try to help people not be afraid in the midst troubling times,” said Russell.
“With technology, we don’t have to cancel the church because we can have church wherever we are,” said Dinger.
“Because we are the church,” said Russell.
“And the mission continues no matter what goes on,” said Balliet. “The church is still the church and we’re still here for not only our parishioners, but our community with which we serve. So if there are pastoral needs, all they have to do is call one of the four offices of the churches.”
While acknowledging the precautionary measures could still be in place through Easter on Sunday, April 12, Dinger said this is their plan for at least the next two Sundays and then they will reevaluate based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal and state governments and the bishop.
“And I had a colleague say that just because we can’t worship together on Easter doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Easter as soon as we get to come back and be able to worship together,” said Russell.
“In fact, that will be even more of a reason to celebrate the Resurrection when all of the safety protocols are lifted, we’ll be celebrating the Resurrection, but every Sunday is a mini-celebration of the Resurrection,” said Balliet.
Between the four churches, the pastors estimated approximately 470 people attend Sunday services, but they are looking at this new way of ministry to perhaps reach even more worshippers.
“With technology, we can reach potentially more people than we reach on a Sunday morning,” said Dinger. “And so when you talk about evangelism, this is an opportunity.”
“I know we at DuBois First United Methodist Church are excited in a spirit of Christian witness and unity to join together with our fellow Methodist churches to reach out into our community, provide a format where people can continue to worship and continue their discipleship and that we would invite anybody if your church is canceled to join us for the live stream worship,” said Emigh.
“Even if you aren’t a regular attender of any worship service, we would love to have you,” said Balliet. “This is still the church being the church and reaching out, making disciples of Jesus Christ around the world.”
In addition to Sunday services, other church gatherings have also been impacted by the coronavirus, they said. All of the churches have postponed meetings and groups that do not serve an essential need in the community.
“Groups like AA (Alcoholic’s Anonymous) and our Christian counseling, they are continuing to operate as they need to,” said Dinger.
“In addition to that, if we receive a phone call for a personal need, we will take safety precautions, but we will be there for those people,” said Balliet. “We also are being more intentional than probably we normally are in making sure we’re making those phone calls and staying connected, especially for those who are shut in.”
With regard to funerals, Balliet said she foresees, depending on what the family’s wishes are to be done with their loved one, many memorial services being held after the social distancing has been lifted and celebrating a person’s life after this. Russell said he has had to postpone one infant baptism so far but none of the pastors have any weddings yet to postpone.
“It’s going to be day-by-day and seeing what happens,” said Balliet. “Our ministries are all still ongoing. We should still be reaching out to our neighbors, calling, checking in on each other, connecting that way. We all should still be looking to minister to people in their time of need. We all still should be financially supporting the churches because we are all still doing ministry. And we do this out of love and gratitude. We give because we love the Lord and the Lord has blessed each of us. And no matter what’s going on in this world today, we are blessed.”