December 2, 2021

Remote options to unite faithful as virus fears spread

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

The Rev. Nathan Brooks, left, talks Friday with the Rev. Joe Zereski in St. Mary’s Church in Cortland. Churches like St. Mary’s have had to alter how services offered given due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For church-goers in Cortland County, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” will soon be “Logon, All Ye Faithful” as area churches go to digital services for the near future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s mind boggling to see how rapidly we’ve had to adjust our lives and interact with others,” said the Rev. David Johnson, pastor of Cortland’s United Presbyterian Church.

Health officials are urging people to practice social distancing, staying at least 6 feet from other people, and take other precautions to help stem the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Churches like Johnson’s are responding by going digital for services.

Sunday services will be live streamed on the United Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page Sunday mornings at 10:30, Johnson said.

Worship and all other activities, including lunches, suppers and meetings, have been canceled, according to an announcement on the church’s website.

Johnson said he wants to be able to have members of the congregation send their joys, concerns and requests through email or text messages for later services, though he’s not quite sure what else will change as the church takes the coronavirus situation “day by day.”

“It’s teaching us a new way to be a community,” he said.

For Grace Christian Fellowship, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a rise in the number of people calling to ask how to help the church, said Joelle Zimmerman, the church’s community outreach and volunteer coordinator.

“It’s been an opportunity to reach people that we might not have talked to in a while,” she said.

Grace Christian Fellowship will also go to digital services on the church’s website, though they not will not be live streamed. Instead, they will be pre-recorded earlier in the week and be ready to watch at the church’s first service time of 9 a.m. on Sundays.

Additionally, the church has been calling members of its congregation on the phone to ask if they are in need of assistance.

“We want to keep our doors open, just not the way they would usually be,” Zimmerman said.

The church’s office will remain open though that may change too because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to have all non-essential employees work from home, she said.

The church, like the United Presbyterian Church, plans to have a recording for Easter but Zimmerman didn’t have other details.

“We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” she said.

St. Mary’s Parish has closed its doors for services, including Mass, though it will live stream Mass daily on its Facebook page, the Rev. Joe Zareski said.

The decision comes following Syracuse Bishop Douglas Lucia’s call that the “faithful are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to participate in Holy Mass,” he said last week in a statement.

Private prayer in the chapel will still be available.

“It’s been wonderful,” Zareski said of the community’s reaction to live streaming mass.

Zareski wasn’t sure what plans for Easter would entail but thought that Mass would be live streamed then as well.

“We will do this until we can have Mass in public again,” he said.