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Local churches alter service plans

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

As COVID -19 concerns have led to recommendations for people to avoid meeting in large groups, many churches have canceled services but found creative ways to stay connected as a family of believers.

Tyler Eliand, Chilton Baptist Association director, said some churches have made the decision to close through April 1, while others are making decisions on a week to week basis.

“A lot of churches that are part of our associations … that I have heard from, are canceling activities until further notice,” Eliand said.

Chilton Baptist Association released information and tutorials on its Facebook for pastors wanting to offer services available via internet.

“I have encouraged people to take seriously the recommendations of the CDC,” Eliand said.

West End Baptist Church announced on its website that it has canceled services for March 22 but will have a livestream service at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday activities and the church picnic for March 29 have been canceled. More information available at webconline.org.

“In response to the very real risk of COVID-19 in our community, and our deep commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves, Clanton FUMC has suspended our regular traditional and Hydrate worship services,” Meghan Kelley, co-pastor of Clanton First United Methodist Church, said. “All other gatherings have been suspended as well.”

The church will offer a video service each Wednesday for youth on its Facebook page.

“Our children’s ministry is making various digital opportunities available, such as recording lessons and posting them as well as sharing other online resources,” Kelley said.

A “drive in” option for Sunday service will be offered in the church’s parking lot on March 22 at 9:30 a.m.

“People will not be permitted to exit their cars, and no bathrooms will be available,” Kelley said.

FUMC is also starting the tradition of River Church early this year, starting on March 29.

“This is an annual summer tradition that dates back to the ’70s,” Kelley said. “People pull up to the dock at the Trobaugh pavilion and stay in their boats for worship. Although there is a pavilion for additional seating, we will not open the pavilion to guests. People may park in the parking lot to listen to the service, if they cannot pull up by boat.”

Details and service times are still being worked out.

“With each and every step we have consulted health care professionals,” Kelley said. “We believe it is an important witness to exercise caution, not out of fear, but out of a faithful commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Jason Green, pastor of Mineral Springs Baptist Church, said services are moving to internet platforms to be available at the normal service times on the church’s Facebook page.

“We are talking about other options if we are forced to close for a time, which is a possibility,” Green said. “The state and federal governments have extraordinary freedom now because on the state of emergency declarations. The Christian community is in uncharted territory right now. We have an obligation to minister regardless of the social, economical or health situation. We have to find the God-honoring, yet thoughtful and proactive way of doing that in the current state of uncertainty.”

Randy Reid, pastor of First Assembly of God in Clanton, said service for March 22 and March 25 had been canceled.

“We’ll reacess the situation after that,” he said. “We will be streaming Sunday Morning’s message on our Facebook live feed on Sunday Morning at 10 a.m.”

Tony Hughes, pastor of Mt Nebo/ Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, said the leadership of the United Methodist Church and specifically the bishop of the Alabama West Florida Conference, of which the church is a part, have recommended that member churches cancel all activities and services as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID -19).

Services for both of the church Hughes leads have been canceled until April.

“We just felt it best to do that,” Hughes said.

A worship leader at the church, Hughes and someone offering technical help had plans to create a webinar that will be available on YouTube and Facebook on March 22.

The webinar will be available by searching for “Mt. Nebo/ Pleasant Grove 2020” on YouTube.

“If there is a bright ray of sunshine in all this gloominess it is that it is forcing people to work together … It’s a joy to see,” Hughes said.