By Jessie Schoonover
The West Park Times reached out to various faith leaders in this area to see how they are maintaining services, connections, faith, and more during these challenging times.
“The building is not the church,” says Rev. Jason Thompson of the West Park United Church of Christ (UCC), 3909 Rocky River Dr. “That is something that is hard for us to remember.”
In fact, worshipping in private homes is not a new concept, Thompson says.
“It was the tradition of the early church to worship in private homes, and we still embrace home worship,” says Thompson, adding that for some, this can feel ‘less holy,’ so to speak.
“We also have historical records of home worship during the Spanish influenza pandemic right here in Cleveland (circa 1918),” says Thomspon. “When local churches were under order to close. Our pastor at the time, the Rev. J.P. Reidinger, instructed the congregation on how to hold worship services in their own homes.
“Today, of course, we have technology that these earlier communities could have only imagined.”
According to Thompson, these activities of West Park UCC have been moved to an online format:
- Sunday worship
- Children’s meetings
- Prayer shawl
- Board meetings
- Coffee hour
Everyone is welcome to attend these online events.
“These connections are vital in allowing us to maintain a relationship with each other and with God. And that is the church. The church is the relationship we have with God, with each other, and with our world,” Thompson says. (To access services, visit http://westparkucc.org/covid-19-update/.)
According to Rabbi Enid C. Lader of Beth Israel- The West Temple, 14308 Triskett Rd., ‘meeting’ has taken on a different meaning, but celebrations of the Shabbat, learning of the Torah, preparation for Passover and movement through the Passover seder continue.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus,” says Lader, “my congregation has offered our services online. Each service has been led in ‘real-time,’ giving people the opportunity to see each other, participate in the service by reading various parts of the service, and share wishes and blessings with each other at the end of each service.”
Lader says: “We have ‘met’ together for a special service of mourning and healing. Our religious school families have ‘met’ together for song and prayer. Our Hebrew school students have ‘met’ together to continue their learning.”
In addition, around 40 families from the religious school sent letters and cards expressing smiles and holiday wishes to 110 other temple households. Passover foods were also delivered by members of the congregation to other members who were unable to go out and shop for themselves.
“We continue to reach out to our members with calls to touch base and make sure all is well,” says Lader. “If people are in need, we try to make the connections to help them out.”
Pastor Rob Plain of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, 12826 Lorain Ave., says, “Yes, we livestream all our services on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Anyone can find us online by searching my name, Rev. Rob Plain.”
He also provides this passage: Joshua 1:9 tells us this; “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“While this is an unprecedented event in our lives, this is not unprecedented in history,” says Plain. “Noah was quarantined on an ark with his family and all the animals for 375 days; the Israelites were quarantined in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered the promised land; Jonah was quarantined in the belly of a fish for 3 days, just to name a few examples…”
According to Plain, staying connected with your ‘church family’ can provide strength, and can be done via phone, text, email, and online livestreaming.
“People miss each other,” says Father Doug Koesel of Blessed Trinity Church, 14040 Puritas Ave. “They miss the connectedness that we have made and the ways we collectively reach out to the neighborhood and the world.”
“Two phrases we hear over and over during this crisis are that ‘we are in this together,’ and that ‘one day this will end.’ Those are two fundamental aspects of religion,” Koesel says.
“For those who are not church/temple/mosque attenders, the coronavirus probably has no impact. They can still pray at home, read scripture on the Internet, and even watch spiritual TED talks. But for those of us Christians for whom weekly worship is an essential ingredient in life because we believe Jesus’s call to community, there is no substitute for gathering together as God’s people.”
“During Lent, sheltering at home was a time to reflect on suffering and death, and what a real Lenten penance that is. Now that we are in the Easter season, we look forward in hope. We pray for our scientists to find a cure/vaccine/treatment, and we pray that we listen to scientists first and foremost.”
The story doesn’t have to end here! If we’ve missed you or your church, congregation, or other place of worship, write to us at email@example.com.
FOOD PANTRY INFORMATION:
WEST PARK UCC, 3909 Rocky River Dr. ― Food pantry operates every Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon. The church has offered hundreds of bags of food to West Park neighbors over the last six weeks.
BLESSED TRINITY CHURCH, 14040 Puritas Ave. ― The Hunger Center, called the Bountiful Basement, continues to serve people. It is open Tuesday 9:30 a.m.-noon, and Wednesday 5-6:45 p.m. Stay in your car. If you walk to the center, follow strict guidelines of those in charge. The produce giveaway also continues the first Wednesday of the month, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Again, stay in your cars and follow the directions given to you when you arrive.