Reverend Mark Johnson, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Springfield, jokes that he has told more people not to come to church in the past year and a half than he has. done in his whole life.
âYou don’t like to say that,â said Johnson, âbut when you understand the situation they’re in, (you tell them not to) feel bad about it, stay home, listen online and we will stay in touch with you. “
Johnson was speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic and people staying away from services due to health concerns.
Johnson and other pastors in the area are in a different situation than they were last Christmas. Over the past year, many congregations have had to suspend in-person worship services or try more original thinking.
Reverend Greg Busboom, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), held an in-person outdoor service in the church parking lot and was lucky, he admitted, when the good weather resisted.
A year ago, the Reverend Joseph Ring, pastor of Our Savior Catholic Church in Jacksonville, was taking reservations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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While churches may have full in-person services for Christmas, some require or require people to wear face masks and request that people not congregate inside the church to socialize after the service.
Christmas services can mean higher than normal attendance for churches, including out-of-town visitors, and extended hours for services.
Busboom said his church has four Christmas Eve services, many of which cater to different age groups.
Recognizing that many people still do not come to church in person or might be aware of larger crowds, three of these services will be featured on the church’s YouTube channel.
For Rev. William DeShone Rosser, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Springfield, the pandemic has meant a shift to earlier and shorter services to limit exposure time.
Rosser said 40 to 50 percent of his church members are back in person and the rest are watching online,
Acknowledging that worship is designed to be “an experience, not just a viewing,” Rosser insisted that the pandemic presents a unique opportunity for the church “if it can recognize what’s going on.
âThe cult as we knew it is no longer,â Rosser added. “Our young generation does not go to church like the previous generations did.”
Rev. Roy Newman, pastor of Fresh Visions Community Church in Springfield, said the pandemic caused the church to regroup. His church used to have online services, but is now trying to be more strategic and intentional in its delivery.
âWe personally try to identify with the audience online, being aware that it can work well for the audience here (in the sanctuary), but we also want to be mindful of those who log on,â Newman said. “How we craft the message, the songs. We want to make sure that (those online) aren’t second-class citizens or just an afterthought.”
Rosser said that before the pandemic, the church was considering having a more visible online presence as “a six-month priority. When COVID hit, it became a priority for next week.”
For the pastors, Rosser added, “we not only had to be the star of the show in some cases, but also the producer and the executive director.”
Busboom said that amid the pandemic trauma, there is a certain segment of people who have looked to the church as “a place of normality and rest. It is a place where they fill up.”
For others, âthey’re so exhausted from work and school and dealing with the kids and everything they’ve chosen to stay home. Maybe that means worshiping online, connecting with the church in a different way by not having the mental energy or the physical energy to integrate the church into whatever they are trying to manage. â
Rosser said he was concerned about a part of the congregation that was not ready to return in person because of their own health or for the sake of the health of others, but didn’t like the online, difficult version. -I-need-be-there-and-if-I-can’t-be-there-I-don’t-even-want-to-watch-it-on-TV.
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âThere’s always been a number of people who go to church, who are engaged, but they’re there because that’s where they’re supposed to be on Sunday mornings. With COVID, that gives them a way out. Are they still participating? We still have a good number of them participating financially. When we have Bible studies online, they will participate. We have had some who don’t come to church on Sundays come to our Thanksgiving dinner to participate. They are still a vital part of the life of the congregation, but they are not ready to return to the real Sunday morning portion. This is going to be a problem for a lot of churches (in the future). “
Johnson said he expected more attendance at Christmas services. He said that at this point people are more determined to move on in life.
âThere are a lot of people who stay home separated, watching online because of their concerns,â Johnson said. “They released some freedom and people took advantage of that and we do a lot of things to allow people, hopefully in a safe way, to connect with other people.”
Ring said he was monitoring COVID numbers and trying to keep mitigation measures in place. He said he rarely had feedback on issues like wearing a mask.
âWe’re happy to be able to be together (on Christmas),â Ring said. âAgain, this is an improvement over before. This is not where we want to be. It is not the old normal. We keep faith and trust in the Lord. We still are. a people of hope, always a people of faith. This is what supported us during the pandemic. We certainly don’t want to give up now. This is what supported our ancestors and their struggles and the people who await coming of Christ. â
Busboom said in particular this year, with the pandemic and the political polarization that has divided so many homes, that the church can deliver a message of hope.
Busboom said he was also aware that with the pandemic, churches during Christmas services will see new faces or members they rarely see.
âFor them, I have a chance to preach the good news,â he said. “This is what I want them to go with. I don’t want them to leave feeling judged for only being there once. I want them to hear the good news, God God. love them, that they are a child of God and it doesn’t matter if they are there once or every Sunday to which they belong and that there is something for them. “
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
Christmas Eve and Christmas services
Lutheran Church of St. John (ELCA)
2477 W. Washington St., Springfield, www.stjohns-springfield.org
Christmas Eve: 3 p.m., fun worship service (nursery school and families) at the Parish Life Center; 4:30 p.m. Traditional at the sanctuary (broadcast on the YouTube channel); 7:30 p.m. Contemporary at the Center of Parish Life (streaming); 11 p.m. at the Sanctuary (streamed).
Christmas Day: 10 a.m. at the Sanctuary.
501 W. Hazel Dell Road, Springfield; 1730 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, www.calvaryspringfield.org
Christmas Eve: 2 p.m. (Jefferson); 4 p.m. (Hazel Dell, online) and 6 p.m. (Hazel Dell, online)
Catholic Church of Our Savior
453 E. State St., Jacksonville; www.oursaviourparish.org
Christmas Eve: 4 p.m. (performed for the hearing impaired, broadcast live), 6 p.m.
Christmas: 9 am (performed for the hearing impaired, broadcast live).
Westminster Presbyterian Church
533 S. W al nut Street, Springfield, www.wpcspi.org
Christmas Eve: 5 pm Children’s service; 7:30 am Lessons and songs service
Episcopal Church of Christ
611 E Jackson St., Springfield, www.episc.org
Christmas Eve: 6 p.m.
First Baptist Church
410 West Third North Street, Mount Olive
Christmas Eve: Noon (prepackaged communion)
Christian church on the south side
2600 S. MacArthur Blvd., Springfield, www.southsidechristian.com
Christmas Eve: 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. (live)
Christian Center of Abundant Faith
2525 Taylor Avenue, Springfield, www.abundantfaith.org
New Years Eve Celebration, with Fresh Visions Community Church, 10 p.m. (Taylor Campus)