Area churches moving to online services

Arkansas City First Church of the Nazarene Pastor Luke Wise and only essential personnel have been present in church for the past few weeks. Online services were set up to continue worship and abide by the virus restrictions. Many churches have done the same.

With large gatherings forbidden, worshipping in fellowship has become a test of faith.

Churches and other supportive groups are having to find new and creative ways to serve their membership.

Several local pastors on Wednesday shared how their churches and congregations are juggling the social distancing rules and keeping services going during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Winfield, the First Church of the Nazarene, like many other area churches, is holding services online. 

Pastor Billy Byler said that not being able to meet with the entire congregation face to face has been heartbreaking for him.  

“One of the most important things a church does is gather together on a regular basis to worship the Lord,” he said.

Byler said the church held its first online broadcast  Sunday, using Facebook Live to stream the service. He said more than 200 people connected to view the service, and many invited their neighbors and family to tune in as well.

“Last Sunday it was very strange to have only 10 people in the sanctuary,” he said.

Byler said he and his board are taking things two weeks at a time, and will review the situation at that time and decide how to proceed.

“We can’t not gather,” he said. “We have to figure out what to do with that and we have to be good members of the community too.”

The Cornerstone Bible Fellowship, also in Winfield is streaming services through Facebook, too. Pastor Scott Schaefer said that some of the smaller groups may still gather but are being mindful of the need for social distancing.

“If there is a Bible study that is less than 10 people and a leader wants to open his home, they are free to do that,” he said.

Schaefer said the church held its first ever streamed event Sunday, and more than 500 people joined that broadcast.

The First Assembly of God in Arkansas City is also streaming all of its services. Pastor James Newman said while the Sunday service had more than 2,600 views, he greatly misses having the congregation physically together.

“The people not being able to worship as a family, that’s been a big factor for us,” he said.

Newman said all services are available through the church Facebook page. He has also set up a Youtube channel for those who haven’t established Facebook accounts. 

The church is also doing all it can to follow up with its members and stay in contact.

“We split up our membership directory,” he said. “I have people making contact calls throughout the week to keep that closeness as much as we can.”

Northside Baptist in Ark City also began streaming services Sunday. Pastor Ryan Whitley said all of the church services have been moved online, and more than 2,500 people had viewed that service.

“Our biggest challenge right now is to keep people connected even though we’re not able to see each other in a corporate gathering,” he said.

Whitley said the church has had online giving set up for quite a while, and his congregation has remained faithful in their giving. 

The steadfast giving makes it possible for the church to look for more ways to help the community deal with the current situation. 

The church is also continuing to offer its Monday night meals ministry, just in a grab and go format.

“We’re still trying to do our best to meet the needs as much as we can,” he said. “A lot of that is being done on more of an individual basis.”

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