Local churches stepping up in different ways to continue ministering and helping people

Amid a sanctuary full of empty pews, Bobby Kemp (left), lead pastor at Huntington First Church of the Nazarene, talks to his congregation in a livestreamed service Sunday, March 29, as members of the worship team wait for their turn to minister. Numerous area churches have taken their Sunday, midweek and other services online in response to the “stay-at-home” order during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid a sanctuary full of empty pews, Bobby Kemp (left), lead pastor at Huntington First Church of the Nazarene, talks to his congregation in a livestreamed service Sunday, March 29, as members of the worship team wait for their turn to minister. Numerous area churches have taken their Sunday, midweek and other services online in response to the “stay-at-home” order during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

During the continuing coronavirus pandemic, there may be no one warming the pews in churches.

However, people in Huntington County are finding local churches stepping up to continue their ministries, not only online but by mobilizing volunteers to help those in need.

Huntington First Church of the Nazarene is one of those churches making use of the Internet to minister in several platforms. Lead Pastor Bobby Kemp says even though the building may be closed, “HNaz” is still open online with Sunday services through its Facebook page.

“We’re trying to provide this continuity of ministry in a time when nothing is very consistent and everything is kind of in an upheaval,” Kemp says. “We’re just trying to equip as much as we can. We’re trying to get as many resources out as we can into the hands of parents and individuals during this time, so we’re using lots of different digital means for that.”

To view the live Sunday service, which begins at 10:30 a.m., go to Facebook and “like” the Huntington First Church of the Nazarene page.
The church also has a midweek streamed service on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. A Facebook livestream called “HNaz Kids Online” has lessons for preschool to elementary school children that parents can put on and their kids can interact with the children’s ministry staff. Lesson pages can be printed from the hnaz.org website. Youths in sixth through 12th grades can join YouTube Live through the HNaz youth ministry page. Then adults will gather on the main Facebook page.

“Each Wednesday we’ll try to provide something different for adults to connect through the livestream,” Kemp adds.

Kemp also leads a guided morning prayer service Monday through Friday at 8:45 a.m. through Facebook Live.

The church has posted a Frequently Asked Questions on its website at hnaz.org/covid-19, as well as forms for prayer requests, help needs and sign-up for those who want to volunteer their help. In addition, it has mobilized members to work with its food pantry ministry, which is open on an emergency as-needed basis. They also match volunteers up with those who need help in order to meet those needs.

“So if somebody says, ‘I can help run errands,’ when a person says, ‘I need medicine picked up,’ we can connect that,” Kemp says. “Our 30- and 40-year-olds and 20-year-olds, if they can go pick up groceries for an elderly person, let us do that. …We want to help everyone that we can.”

One innovative idea to keep members connected has been the launch of a livestreamed Friday night trivia game on Facebook, which proved to be a hit with those who participated. In addition, the church has planned a live “date night” for couples, also online.

“It’s just something to distract you – it’s a way to engage,” Kemp explains. “We want to make sure that through this time, yes, we have to stay apart, but we need to keep connected.”

At College Park Church, Associate Pastor Paul Hirschy says Sunday morning services are livestreamed at 11 a.m. on both its Facebook and YouTube platforms. The service can be accessed by going to the church’s website, cpubchurch.com, and clicking on the “LIVE STREAMING” button. A link is also available at facebook.com/cpubchurch.

In addition, Hirschy says many of the church’s members have formed a group to help others, including its large number of older members.

“We have divided that list of people among our staff and elders and a few other volunteers and we’re asking them to call them once a week to see if they’re OK, if they need anything, they need something picked up or if they need help in any way,” he says. “We’re hoping that the bulk of our congregation that’s 65 and older will get a phone call once a week from someone else in the church saying, ‘How are you doing? We’re just checking in. Do you need anything that we could help with?’”

Hirschy reports that so far, people are doing all right. The church helped one man move from a rehabilitation facility back to his apartment, and a volunteer has kept in touch with him daily to make sure he has everything he needs. Hisrschy says that those who do have needs should not let pride get in the way of them reaching out for help.

“We’re just concerned that if people have a need, they feel free to ask, especially the older generation,” he says. “They just want to take care of themselves.”

Central Christian Church’s 10 a.m. Sunday services that have been pre-recorded can be viewed on the church’s Facebook page, located at facebook.com/ccc500. The staff is awaiting the arrival of a camera and equipment that will allow them to livestream soon.

In the meantime, Lead Pastor Chris Hayden says the church is communicating with members to make sure they are weathering the pandemic storm.

“We’ve put out emails; we’re keeping in email contact,” he says. “We’re providing driving services for our members, if they need to get out somewhere. We’ll go out and do the running for them, if we’ve got Seniors who are not able to go out and get their groceries, things like that.”
Central Christian Church is also planning to set up online conference calls for meetings and to keep in touch with people, as well as sending out “snail mail” with newsletters.

“We’re praying for everybody, and trying to stay in contact, trying to help out the community as best we can,” Hayden says. “If anybody has any idea, we’re open to listen; we’re very teachable.”

The following Huntington County churches are offering online video services:

• Faith Community Church of God will post a pre-recorded service online by 10:15 a.m. each Sunday via Facebook, at facebook.com/FCChuntington.

The church is also helping with meals and supplies by delivering as resources are available.

For more information call the church office at 356-5476 and leave a message.

• Markle Church of Christ has online Sunday service videos posted on YouTube on its “marklechurch” channel. Additional resources are available on the church’s webpage, marklechurch.org/churchonline.

The church is also planning to have a “drive-through” Easter service at the church campus on Sunday, April 12, at three service times, 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Those coming for the service can pull in to the parking lot, tune in on their car’s radio, and join in on a worship service that will be broadcast live from an outdoor stage to their vehicle.

• SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church has a previously recorded video mass Sundays at 4 p.m. on YouTube, youtube.com/watch?v=qvhpNMXt_q4.
The church will also livestream services during Holy Week, starting with a Good Friday service at 1:30 p.m. on Facebook, facebook.com/groups/1262736267079452. A livestreamed Mass on Easter morning will take place at 10 a.m.

In addition, a livestreamed lesson that would have been taught during SSPP’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults class will be presented live on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m.

The church is also publishing its parish bulletin online, located at http://discovermass.com/church/saints-peter-and-paul-huntington-in/#bull....

• St. Peter’s First Community Church will have livestreamed services on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on Facebook, at facebook.com/StPetersFirstcommunityChurch. A video conference prayer gathering is held on Thursdays form 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. via Zoom. Email Megan Engle at megane@spfcc.org to receive an invitation to link to the meeting.

• Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has announced that on Friday, April 3, at 7 p.m. the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will livestream the Stations of the Cross from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. Everyone who is able to access Facebook or YouTube is invited and encouraged to participate in the devotion by one of two ways:

Via Facebook: Search for @diocesefwsb. A clickable post on Friday afternoon will allow for viewing.

Via YouTube: Around five minutes before 7 p.m., on a computer, smartphone or smart TV, search for @diocesefwsb. Click on the diocesan crest to go to the diocesan channel. Click on the video. As soon as the stations begin the image will become “live.”