“I want you to know that with all that we are experiencing in this country and even in this city, that it will pass. We’ve just got to listen to the word of God,” he said in the video. “Our nation is at war—not with an enemy from another country—but with the coronavirus COVID-19, and it has affected our church and churches all across this nation.”
Churches of all denominations across the Cy-Fair region have temporarily closed their doors, moved their services online and are coordinating efforts to continue serving their members and their surrounding communities in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
At Houston Northwest Church on Hwy. 249, staff members are working to keep their congregants connected through emails, regular video updates on social media, small group meetings via video chat platforms, a YouTube channel for students, and Facebook groups for individual ministries including ones for college students, men and women.
Senior pastor Steve Bezner said in a March 15 video update that the church’s doors would be closed for the next several weeks, but ministry would still be ongoing. He said church members can communicate needs for prayer or for having errands run through the church’s mobile app, by calling the office or at www.hnw.org/online.
“There’s a few folks that have asked [if we’re] afraid, and the short answer to that is no, we’re not afraid. Scripture tells us to not be afraid,” Bezner said in the clip streamed to thousands of viewers. “However, we are ... trying to love our neighbors—particularly the vulnerable people in our congregation.”
Other churches streaming their services live online over the next few weeks include St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on North Eldridge Parkway, The Foundry Church’s Jones Road and Fry Road locations, Cypress United Methodist Church on Cypress North Houston Road, Messiah Lutheran Church on Telge Road, TheMET Church on Jones Road, Cypress Bible Church on Cypress North Houston Road, Crossover Bible Fellowship on Perry Road, and Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church on Huffmeister Road, among others.
Some churches are thinking outside the box when it comes to reaching their congregations, such as drive-thru prayer opportunities and allowing up to 10 individuals inside at a time for prayer or times of confession.
At TheMET Church, enhancements to the Sunday morning service livestreams have been made, including making live chat hosts available for individuals to interact with during the service. Michael Turk, the executive pastor of organizational development, said TheMET is planning to continue streaming services for about a month, but officials are prepared to extend that timeline if needed.
“Even though we’ve been streaming for years, we’re ramping up to a platform that’s called Church Online, which has some expanded capabilities,” Turk said in a phone interview March 19. “It’s actually a free platform, so for smaller churches it’s a great option for them. I’m hoping that churches that haven’t been doing this are finding those kinds of tools.”
Volunteers at the church have called senior citizens in TheMET’s database as well as individuals who are not connected to a small group and are noting needs for prayer, supplies or transportation that the church can help meet, Turk said.
Turk said TheMET depends on financial contributions from its congregation each week to sustain ministry and operations at the church, but since in-person services came to a halt, giving has slowed as well. He said church leaders are not concerned about this decrease, but they are encouraging members to give online.
“We’re not approaching it from a fear-based mindset because we truly do believe that God calls us to be the church [and] he’s going to provide the resources that we need,” he said. “I think it’s hard too for folks because I think everybody’s trying to brace financially, and so that’s the thing when that fear sets in is being able to step out in faith and know that when we’re obedient in continuing to give that God’s going to take care of us.”