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‘Forsaking the assembly?’

Amid cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, churches urged to ‘settle down, be calm and have a message of hope.’

Ministers around the globe are preaching sermons to empty rooms.

But for once, this has nothing to do with declining church attendance.

Using videoconferencing software and social media, Churches of Christ — especially large congregations — are temporarily moving their worship services online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After much prayer, we have decided the best thing for us to do this weekend is settle down, be calm and have a message of hope,” said Jonathan Seamon, executive minister, to members for the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., which had 19 cases of COVID-19 at press time. The 1,400-member church canceled a week of its onsite worship and Bible classes.

A group of ministers and elders planned to livestream a gospel message from the church building, Seamon said in a video message to church members. The church’s staff made communion supplies available for church members to pick up.

In Houston, the 900-member Memorial Church of Christ confined its Sunday a.m. worship to livestream after local authorities asked people not to meet in groups of 250 or more. The church planned to continue its Sunday night assembly.

Announcement by the elders of the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston

Announcement by the elders of the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston

Church leaders placed hand sanitizer throughout their buildings and urged members to thoroughly wash their hands for 20 seconds.

And most importantly, they said, stay home if you don’t feel well.

“You are ‘not forsaking the assembly’ if you are sick,” said church elders, referencing the King James Version of Hebrews 10:25 in a message to members. “You are protecting the family.”

As the pandemic worsened and more churches contemplated moving their services entirely online, ministers expressed mixed feelings about empty-room sermons.

“A sermon is an interactive event for me,” said Joseph Pauley, minister for the Church of Christ in Belle, W.Va. “Facial expressions even help me know that I am effectively communicating with the congregation.

“Would I preach without an audience I can see? If necessary, yes. Would I be comfortable? Not really.”

Richard Harp

Richard Harp

Online preaching “is a style-changer for sure,” said Richard Harp, pulpit minister for the Deerfoot Church of Christ in Pinson, Ala. He said he’s thankful for the time he spent in the Lads to Leaders training program. Participating in the “video speech” and “audio presentation” categories, he said, “I preached with no audience … for years.”

The annual Lads to Leaders conventions, which bring thousands of youths to locales including Nashville and Atlanta on Easter weekend, had not been canceled at press time, according to a statement posted to the ministry’s website. Neither had the Leadership Training for Christ conventions slated for the same weekend in Dallas, Kansas City, Mo.,  and other cities across the U.S.

Filed under: Burnette Chapel Church of Christ cancelations canceled cancellations cancelled church services Churches of Christ corona virus Coronavirus COVID-19 National Top Stories worship service

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