In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, God remained present for church-goers around Bureau County. His voice was never silenced.
Churches utilized remote broadcasts at the onset of the pandemic and turned to drive-in services. This month, churches began to open their doors to welcome their parishioners back inside with special guidelines in place.
Van Orin Gospel Church was among the first Bureau County churches to reopen on Sunday, June 7. Worshipers are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Van Orin had been streaming its services before reopening.
Princeton Bible Church held its first indoors service on Sunday, June 14, and it was a welcoming sight, associate pastor Justin Bullington said.
“PBC has been thankful to reconvene, while at the same time, cautious,” Bullington said. “Our greeting time has been cut short and limited to waving and hellos. Folks have been generally careful about close contact. Some choose to wear masks, some don’t.
“As pastors, the challenge has been leading our people to the peace we have in Christ and the word of God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We want to submit to the governing authorities that God has placed over us, as scripture demands, while also obeying the clear command in Hebrews 10 to meet together.
“Discerning the Lord’s will in these areas have been challenging, but great for our growth. It has also been challenging to keep up with needs at times within our church family.”
Princeton Bible has its FM radio broadcasting into the parking lot and throughout the building for those unable or uncomfortable with sitting in the sanctuary. Another option for other PBC members is to follow church services on Facebook Live.
Walnut Community Bible Church opened up for the first time Sunday with social distancing guidelines observed. It is the first time it has tried to have a live service in two locations simultaneously in the building.
A church member said the service went well and “everybody seemed very glad to be back.” And as Pastor Eldon Clark says, “It’s always a good day to be in the house of the Lord.”
Services at Walnut Bible have been live-streamed on Facebook and 91.9 FM since the first week of sheltering. Walnut Bible had three weeks of drive-in services.
St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Princeton held indoor services for the first time Sunday since the pandemic struck. It limited the sanctuary to 50 people, wearing masks, with an additional 50 more in the fellowship hall with a TV feed. In addition to the regular 9 a.m. service, there will be a temporary 11 a.m. service.
St. Louis Catholic Church in Princeton has held inside services the past two weekends. Parishioners must make an appointment to attend Mass and all seats are assigned.
Handshakes of peace and altar servers are not allowed, masks must be worn entering and exiting and going up for communion (single file) and hand sanitizer must be used upon entering building and before receiving communion.
Many area churches will reopen for the first time this weekend.
The Hollowayville United Church of Christ is encouraging masks with one entrance and one exit with one family per pew.
First Presbyterian in Princeton will require masks, with families sitting six feet apart in every other pew. Upon the conclusion of the service, pews will be directed when to exit with no congregating inside.
On its web page, pastor Derek Boggs of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Princeton said, after a lot of time in prayer and seeking wise counsel, it will regather for in-person worship services for the first time Sunday at a 25% capacity.
There will be services scheduled for 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. with seating limited and by reservation only. Masks will be required for entering and exiting the church, available if needed. The main entrance will be used as the only entrance with the back doors utilized only as the exit.
“As a church, we are choosing to honor God and love our neighbors by following recommendations from other congregations and our local health guidelines,” Boggs said.
Online and radio worship services for ECC will continue.
Seatonville Community Church will move inside Sunday after holding outside services the past two weeks. Masks will be required at the entrance and hallways, social distancing will be required inside. All Bibles and hymnals have been removed and all pews sanitized.
United Methodist Church in Princeton will open its doors after much study by its Return Team committee and church board. On a letter sent to its congregation, United Methodist said, “Our Return Team has been working hard for six weeks to determine what needs to be done to the building to make it safe, how worship services can be structured, the changes that must take place and the guidelines that need to be communicated — all so our parishioners and staff will be kept as safe and healthy as possible. While we know these changes are not what we want, they were developed out of love of neighbor so we will be kept healthy.
“Know that no one should feel pressured to return to in-person worship. We fully respect everyone’s decision to remain at home until they feel comfortable returning. We can worship God anywhere.”
The main west and east parking lot doors will be open for the 8 a.m. service. The north doors will be open for the 10:30 a.m. service. Members are asked to exit through the same doors.
Upon entering the building, attendees will be presented hand sanitizer and asked to wear a mask. Kids 2 years old and younger will not be required or those who are unable to do so. There is a limited supply of masks available. Social distancing between family groups will be used. UMC reminds its worshipers that for a while, “regular” pew or space won’t be available.
Community singing will not be part of the UMC service at this time. The congregation will be dismissed in a staggered fashion.
Bunker Hill Church of Buda and First Lutheran Church of Princeton are proceeding with caution, opting to stay with drive-in services at this time.
First Lutheran invites its worshipers to listen from their cars or sitting outside with their lawn chairs.
Bunker Hill will start up its drive-in services again in the church parking lot at 9 a.m. The service will be broadcasted on 92.1 FM and online.
Drive-in services will be the first step toward moving services inside, associate pastor John Erickson said on the church’s Facebook page.
“All of us are excited for that day (going inside), but we’ll take as long as it is necessary to ensure the safety and well being of our entire church family,” Erickson said. “We will have a drive-in service at the church parking lot. We hope this will be an opportunity, for those who wish to use it, for people to come to the church and worship with their church family, even if it is while sitting in their car.”