Arlington Churches Offering Innovative Ways for Members to Worship During COVID-19
By Susan Schrock, Office of Communication
Posted on April 03, 2020, April 03, 2020

Whether by phone calls and texting, online streaming, social media or home visits while practicing proper social distancing, church leaders across Arlington are finding innovative ways to connect and engage with members while helping prevent the spread of respiratory disease COVID-19.

As part of the fight against the coronavirus, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a statewide stay-at-home order with restrictions on public and private gatherings, travel, shopping and work through at least April 30, 2020. The state’s order provides a limited exemption for religious services conducted in churches, congregations and houses of worship, though churches were encouraged to offer virtual services versus in-person services when possible. On Friday, Arlington religious leaders said in a phone call with Mayor Jeff Williams that they would continue to follow recommendations from federal, state and local public health authorities and provide ways for members to participate safely from their homes.

“We are all wanting to do what is the best interest of our entire community,” said Pastor Dennis Wiles of First Baptist Arlington. “We have quickly gotten over our laments over what we’ve lost. We are now more focused on what we can do and what is possible for us through technology.”

Technology is a key tool that is helping churches protect the community’s most vulnerable, especially with the approach of Easter service and related traditional gatherings. For example, First Baptist Church and 17 other Arlington churches are collaborating on a worship service video series that will air Monday through Saturday of Holy Week. Each video will feature messages from three churches.

“It shows that we are one body in Christ, and it shows that we care about the community spiritually, physically and in every way,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Several of the churches are also providing materials to help worshippers to prepare and participate in communion from home on Good Friday.

“We have wrapped our minds around the fact that Easter is going to be a day where we worship remotely,” Wiles said. “The early churches met in homes anyway. It’s not like it’s a new idea.”

Some churches, such as Cornerstone Baptist Church, are trying to keep members engaged in the virtual worship services by asking families to share selfies on social media with special hashtags like #praypraisepose. Others, such as First United Methodist Church of Arlington, are hosting bible studies, youth group meetings and choir meetings through virtual group meeting spaces like Zoom. And instead of passing a physical collection plate, churches have set up ways for people to make their offerings online.

“I would say that I have been very thankful and pleased that the health of our church during this period and the creatively and innovation has been wow, off the chain. There is still vital and vibrant ministry occurring at Cornerstone church,” the Rev. McKissic said.

Earlier this week, Williams signed an extension of the City of Arlington’s declaration of disaster through April 30, 2020, to be in alignment with the Governor’s executive order. Wiles was among more than 15 church leaders who spoke with Williams, Fire Chief Don Crowson and Dr. Cynthia Simmons, Arlington’s public health authority, about how they can safely provide worship services and ministry in the time of COVID-19.

“We just want to be as supportive as we can. We don’t believe our local leaders have asked anything unreasonable of us at this point,” Wiles said.

Click here to read the letter from Fire Chief Don Crowson and Dr. Cynthia Simmons to Arlington churches.

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