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Churches find ways to come together

Photo by Deb Gau Several local churches are turning to streaming online services to reach members who may be socially distancing themselves, as Minnesota deals with the Covid-19 pandemic. First Lutheran Church in Marshall made its March 18 service available on YouTube.

MARSHALL — Living Word Lutheran Church in Marshall started streaming worship services on the internet months ago. At the time, the idea was for the streams to be a resource for people who were homebound or couldn’t attend church that day, said Rev. David Christensen.

Then came COVID-19.

“It’s such a changing landscape,” Christensen said. When people need to avoid in-person gatherings to keep from spreading the illness, streaming services become a more everyday thing.

“At this point, we’re trying to respond as best we can,” Christensen said.

Whether it’s through online livestreams, or neighbors calling to check on each other, Marshall area churches are finding ways to keep their sense of community going in spite of “social distancing.”

One of the measures recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid large gatherings of people. Many churches have suspended in-person services and activities, but that can be tough for church members, local pastors said.

Rev. Lyle Snyder of St. Stephen Lutheran Church said he thought not having in-person services or church activities was hard for members, regardless of age. “Everyone is a bit lonely,” he said.

“As human beings, we know it’s important to be together,” Christensen said.

Having to stop in-person gatherings also poses a challenge for ministry, said Rev. Nathan Delich, of First Baptist Church.

“We have a lot of children’s ministries here,” as well as working with the local Karen community, and church members who are older or at greater risk from COVID-19, Delich said.

Delich said First Baptist doesn’t have the technology to stream church services. But, he said, “We’re going to work really hard to reach out in other ways.” If the period of COVID-19 social distancing continues for a long time, he said streaming would be something he’d want to talk about with the church.

Several Marshall area churches have turned to streaming or online video to help bring worship services and other activities to their members. Among the churches streaming or making services available on YouTube are Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, First Lutheran Church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Grace Life Church, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Living Word Lutheran Church, and St. Stephen Lutheran Church.

“We’re grateful we do have livestreaming capabilities here,” said Quentin Brunsvold, parish administrator at Holy Redeemer. After in-person Masses were suspended, the number of views for daily Mass at Holy Redeemer has jumped, Brunsvold said. At the same time, he said, the parish is working out additional ways to communicate and connect with members.

Besides bringing worship online, local churches are also finding ways to bring people together — whether it’s through technology, calling to check on a neighbor, or helping deliver meals or groceries. Snyder said St. Stephen has held youth meetings through the Houseparty video chat app, and is making confirmation class materials available online. But they’ve also gotten requests to send cards to residents in local nursing homes, too.

“We’re encouraging folks to communicate – not face-to-face, but not leaving people altogether alone,” Delich said.

Local pastors said now is a good time for people to trust in God and put their faith in action.

“Scripture says we are the body of Christ, we’re all members of the same body,” Christensen said. “Now it’s going to be a time when we really have to be the body.”

“We want to be a calm in the storm,” Delich said.

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