Lake Houston-area places of worship urge hope, adapt services amid coronavirus outbreak

Lake Houston-area places of worship, such as the Masjid Ghous-e-Azam mosque and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Kingwood, have adapted services to continue ministering to their communities during the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Lake Houston-area places of worship, such as the Masjid Ghous-e-Azam mosque and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Kingwood, have adapted services to continue ministering to their communities during the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Lake Houston-area places of worship, such as the Masjid Ghous-e-Azam mosque and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Kingwood, have adapted services to continue ministering to their communities during the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The article has been updated with a response from New Covenant Church.

As the population at large practices social distancing, communities of faith in the Lake Houston area are adapting to the new normal and striving to bring people together.



Rev. Bill Richter, rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Kingwood, said his church altered its services in stages, moving from restricting access to communion cups to canceling services entirely.



“We’ve had a steep learning curve of recording and livestreaming services and putting them on our website, Facebook page and YouTube,” Richter said. “The response has been really good.”

Jon Kobialka, a children's pastor at New Covenant Church, said his church has also moved to livestreaming, and has been uploading lessons for children with crafts and devotionals.

"We miss seeing each other in person, but we want life to return to normal as soon as possible," Kobialka said.



Richter said he is making an effort to film videos in the church in order to remind people that “the place is still there and [to] keep connected to the place” where they worship and pray together.



Members of the church community are still ministering to one another's needs, as some in the congregation have organized to run errands for elderly or high-risk members, according to Richter. He said the church is also looking to expand its ability to connect with members through technology to host virtual Bible studies or simply to check in on people.

Kobialka said New Covenant has smaller "life groups" which can still meet via apps such as Zoom and create "maintain our relationships and communicate with each other." He said church staff has been using the life groups as a way to connect with people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.



In a statement to Community Impact Newspaper, the Masjid Ghous-e-Azam mosque in Humble said its management is working to support its community through calls, WhatsApp and its Facebook page.



“We believe that everything is in God’s hand,” the statement said. “And we believe that the same God has given us the rational mind to take precautions first and then leave it to God.”



Richter said the stress of the coronavirus outbreak has shown the value of reaching out and connecting with people. He urged people to continue to support one another.



“Jesus shows up. He’s present with people whatever circumstances they’re in,” Richter said. “The church needs to be as present with people as we can be, and people need to be present with other people.”



Kobialka said the church is encouraging people to abide by local orders and seek comfort in prayer.

"Obviously Christians are not immune to the disease," Kobialka said. "But we believe God has a plan and that we will see this virus come to an end very soon."



Although there is a lot of confusion and fear about the current situation, Richter said Christians can be comforted by knowing this outbreak is temporary.



“God is present in the good times, ... and God is present in times of anxiety about medical issues and also financial issues,” Richter said. “Be still, be calm, take a breath, and understand that this will have a beginning and an end.”

By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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