churches suspend services

Many churches have changed the way they are offering their religious services. Some are streaming worship services over the internet for parishioners to watch at home while others are cancelling them altogether. A marquee at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Homosassa, as one example, indicates the church has suspended its services for the time being.

The times they are a-changin’.

With the threat of the coronavirus spreading rampantly through communities, churches and houses of worship have had to make decisions on what to do about their weekly gathering together for worship -- some even making the difficult decision to suspend services for the time being.

Others, however, have moved their worship online.

And while many have embraced technology and have used it as a tool for ministry long before the term social distancing was in the lexicon, for some, going virtual is virtually something they never imagined doing.

On Tuesday, the Rev. Lloyd Bertine, pastor of Gulf to Lake Church, addressed his church from his office via Facebook Live for the first-time ever.

“This is something I’ve never done before, coming to you live through modern technology,” he said. “It’s unreal for me to do this, but I’m thankful … for the opportunity to share with you, to challenge you, to encourage you in any way that we can.”

He said they had recorded their worship service last week for people to access online, but it was “surreal” to be in an empty auditorium, preaching to empty seats.

Earlier this week, the Chronicle asked readers about their virtual worship experiences, and many said they actually “attended” several church services, both local and from churches in other states.

Nicole House Lembo, a member of Crystal River Church of God, said, “We watched live online Sunday morning, and Pastor Ronnie Reid and the praise team did an amazing job! It was comforting and brought us a feeling of normality to an upside world right now!”

She added, “I miss being there in person, but we had church right there in our living room. It was awesome -- so thankful for a church who goes above and beyond for the community.”

Gary Meiman, watched the service from Christian Center Church for Praise and Worship in Homosassa.

“I miss hugging my church family, but we got spiritually fed and lived to hug another day,” he said.

Jane Boone said she found many Catholic masses both live and pre-recorded on YOUtube. “The world is uniting in prayer,” she said. “The pope invited the world, with any beliefs, to pray… and my mom watches EWTN on TV, the Catholic network.”

Karol Kusmaul said she watched a live Mass from Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Inverness “sans congregation” online.

“It was very comforting, since so many other facets of our lives are changing,” she said. “I did some hand quilting during the service!”

Some churches reported that they are implementing Zoom Meeting, a video conferencing app, to conduct online Bible studies and small group meetings.

Other churches have created daily virtual check-ins, email blasts and blogs, they’re posting daily encouraging devotionals on their Facebook page and sharing information and resources with members (and people who don’t have a church).

Because so many local churches are providing online worship in a variety of forms, the Chronicle doesn’t have space to list them all.

To find a church service, search online for the website of the church you are interested in or look for them on Facebook for their most current information, or call the church’s office number.

Also, local churches depend on tithes and offerings to finance the ministry, which includes helping to meet the needs of people in the community who are in crisis.

Many churches can accept donations through their website or church app, as well as checks mailed directly to the church.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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