St. Patrick's church

St. Patrick's church in Kennett Square is preparing for a return to normalcy following new CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people.

Recently, I was on a Zoom network meeting with Chester County Faith Community pastors and church members. We engaged in a dialogue about how churches will “come back” after the long pandemic hiatus from congregating. There were many concerns expressed, along with some lessons learned and new opportunities uncovered.

The majority of congregations in the County have not returned to their church buildings and are engaging via livestream for the Sunday morning services. At the time of the meeting, there was still uncertainty about when these churches will re-open.

The few churches that have been holding services in person are staying in compliance with the CDC guidelines of six feet distancing, 50 percent capacity and mask wearing. Even with the new CDC guidelines about fully vaccinated individuals having more options for not wearing a mask inside, church settings are staying conservative with their practices.

Not being able to meet in-person has certainly taken its toll on faith communities. Some pastors report that they know they have lost some of their flock, who will probably not return when things open up. Others mention the diminishing financial contributions with worries about keeping up with payment of expenses. Still others talk about the extended break in community building and asking what it will take to bring this back to center.

As part of our discussion, many saw this return as an opportunity to regroup and take the lessons they learned forward.

Most of the pastors agreed that the return to services in the building will not eliminate the livestream or Zoom meeting options. During the shutdown, they learned of homebound members, who were now able to be in contact with their faith community because of these Internet options.

They also learned of new members who preferred participating in church services from home and will continue even after opening.

It was pointed out that this hybrid model will provide more opportunities for community members to be part of a weekly church service as well as serve as a medium that extends the mission beyond the church walls.

Pastors talked about the increased number of Bible Studies that they held on Zoom during the pandemic. With the fear generated by the virus, church-going members sought out spiritual comfort and support and found a variety of virtual options beyond their faith community’s offerings. What ended up being inter-faith participation may become a new practice moving beyond the separateness that is commonly known at Sunday morning worship time.

This past year has certainly brought to the foreground the needs of the vulnerable community. Providing financial support as well as making food donations to the food cupboard have been part of church members helpful contributions.

Churches are positioned to provide help where non-profit agencies services end, and they came through in many cases.

This Spring, churches have set-up flea markets on their church parking lots to help raise funds for the agencies serving the poor. Gardens are being planted so vegetables can be donated to the food cupboards. Church parking lots are being offered as sites for vaccine clinics, as well as other activities to serve the vulnerable. Churches are making a difference!

As churches “come back,” continuing to create opportunities for church members to serve in-person beyond their congregation can be a win-win for all involved. This also offers an arena for the entire family to become more actively involved, bringing new meaning to the call for “love thy neighbor” and “walking the talk.”

The group agreed that the following Guiding Principles would be ones that could help churches return after the hiatus with new spirit and meaning: 1) Pray not for a return to normalcy, but a return to being a Christ-Centered Church 2) Go smaller to grow back forward 3) Return to people, not programs 4) Make it a practice to engage “community” beyond the church walls 5) Be adaptable in all ways, always.

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap. Contact Joan Holliday at dochollisv@aol.com.
comments powered by Disqus