COVID challenges churches, churchgoers

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 5:28 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

The spike in COVID-19 cases continues to challenge churches and churchgoers.

“I just want things to go to normal,” said churchgoer Diane Widhalm.

It’s anything but normal for those who attend church and has been for months. Those who attend worship regularly must stay on the latest changes.

“We’re just praying that things don’t get worse than they are,” Dale Wolf Lighthouse Church Pastor. “It’s been difficult for churches from just some practical standpoints of finances but also just trying to keep track of people and minister as best we can.”

Dale Wolf is a Pastor at Lighthouse Church in Fargo, which works with Free Through Recovery through North Dakota.

“We have had people that have relapsed or who have really struggled with mental health issues,” said Wolf. “We’ve had some people who have struggled with the severity of it taking their life. We have seen over these last few months some people disappear. We’re just not sure where they are.”

Wolf said being a smaller church means they can still have service while keeping numbers limited, continuing to have things daily.

The Diocese of Fargo said attendance is not like what it was before the pandemic, but they’ve seen an uptick in people coming to service in-person rather than online.

“We’re allowing 12 units of people into our church; that’s probably going to go away,” said Father Jamie Parsley, Rector at St. Stephens Episcopal Church.

Father Parsley said they’re taking reservations for service on Christmas, but they’re ready to go solely with live streaming if cases go up.

“I really don’t want to turn anybody away,” said Parsley. “We’re not that kind of a church. We’re very inclusive, we’re very open, we want everybody to be there if they can, but we want everybody to be safe.”

Valley News Live asked how they’re able to stay connected.

“That’s the most difficult aspect of all of this because it kills me that I can’t go and visit my parishioners,” said Parsley. “I have people in the nursing homes or people in the retirement homes. So I try to call them, I try to touch base with them in some way.”

He said he’s continuing to do weddings, baptisms and last rites.

“It was so bizarre and strange, but weirdly beautiful as well,” said Parsley.

Churches added the key is reaching out and communicating somehow, making sure people know the church hasn’t closed down.

“I think these are challenging times for any church,” said Wolf. “I just encourage people to be supportive of those of us who are trying to maintain connectedness in services.”

Many churches say they’re taking things day by day but are requiring masks and social distancing.

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