Chelsea religious leaders are keeping the faith as they deal with the new reality of providing spiritual services and guidance during the global pandemic of the coronavirus.
Many churches in the area have already started providing online services and prayers for their congregants, and others are moving in that direction. Church leaders are also making sure that their most vulnerable parishioners are being checked in on and taken care of.
“We began streaming this past Sunday and will continue to do so during this crisis,” said Father Edgar Gutierrez-Duarte at St. Luke’s-San Lucas Episcopal Church. “We’ve also begun to do some evening prayers through our webpage.”
St. Luke’s is providing its English services online on Sundays at 10 a.m. and Spanish services at noon at HYPERLINK “http://lukelucas.org” \t “_blank” lukelucas.org.
While there was not a large virtual crowd for the initial online services last weekend, Gutierrez-Duarte said he expects the numbers to increase as people hunker down and more people find out about the services.
At the People’s Chelsea A.M.E. Church, Rev. Sandra Whitley said services were not streamed last Sunday, but added the church is exploring the best way to do that for the coming Sunday services.
“The services we had on Sunday will be our last,” said Whitley, as they make the move to some kind of online services.
The First Congregational Church on County Road announced last week that it will be closed for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus and offered a virtual church service on its Facebook page.
“We did this last Sunday and everyone thought it was so nice we are going to do it permanently until this is over,” said Janet Zarvas at First Congregational. The Sunday service takes place online at 10:45 a.m.
She said the church is definitely reaching out to all its members and neighbors to see who is in need and providing any help it can.
As some churches have gone online and others move in that direction, Whitley said there is more for the clergy and congregations to deal with than just Sunday services.
“I’ve really been thinking about my elderly parishioners who are homebound,” said Whitley. “Because of this pandemic, we are making sure that we check in on them and that they are in our prayers.”
At St. Luke’s, Gutierrez-Duarte said a phone tree has been organized to make sure the church community can stay in touch with one another. Most importantly, when dealing with the most vulnerable in the City, Gutierrez-Duarte said the church’s food pantry and soup kitchen will remain open, although there will be some changes when it comes to food delivery.
“We will not be having the hot meals in people’s living rooms, but we will be dropping off lunch bags,” he said.
Whitley and Gutierrez-Duarte said now more than ever it is important for people to keep the faith.
“What we are doing is offering prayer,” said Whitley. “We don’t want people to be fearful, the main thing is that when things are out of control, we can return back to God and pray and not be fearful. God loves us and does not want this to be happening and does not want us to be fearful, but to pray to Him.”
Gutierrez-Duarte said the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, but he said it is important to remain righteous, take the situation seriously, and listen to the experts. He said that anyone who feels the need should feel free to reach out to their pastors and their church.