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Shawnee area churches cancel in-person activities, switch to online services amid COVID-19 pandemic

Elisabeth Slay

During the COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations, churches throughout Pottawatomie County have closed their doors and canceled any in-person activities.

According to Jared Landreth, Creative Arts Minister for Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, several churches, including IBC have decided to hold services online through live streaming methods and will offer other activities and education through their online platforms.

"Currently (IBC has) suspended all activities through April 5. We are actually planning six different streams throughout the week beginning Sunday (March 22) morning at 10 a.m.," Landreth said. "We're going to have our worship services broadcasted on Facebook Live and on our website at ibcshawnee.org."

Landreth explained IBC is offering services for many different groups in its congregation including women, children, students and senior adults, with information regarding service schedules, educational programs and more available at ibcshawnee.org/coronavirus.

Landreth said this link will take people to IBC's internet hub regarding the church's response and course of action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to providing online services to the IBC community, Landreth said the church is working together to help senior adults who may not be able to leave their house or have access to the internet.

"We're also trying to take care of the needs of our elderly as we can. We're still offering to pick up groceries and prescriptions and all of that for those in need," Landreth said. "They can call our office at (405) 273-2105 to get on the list for that."

According to IBC Pastor Todd Fisher, in addition to picking up groceries and prescriptions, the church is also delivering DVDs to those senior adults who don't have access to the Internet but still wish to view services.

"One of the major things we try to do for our church and others is encourage people not to panic. Instead of fear, have faith," Fisher said.

The pastor explained he feels by canceling services and activities IBC isn't giving into the panic or fear of COVID-19, but instead members of the church are being good citizens and protecting the community.

Both Landreth and Fisher said IBC will have to get creative as they and their congregation navigate through the period of closure.

Landreth said IBC is also offering to help other churches in the community with live streaming options.

Similar to IBC, the Monks of St. Gregory's Abbey said they have also decided in accordance with the CDC and state of emergency declarations in both the country and the state to suspend any in-person activities and public attendance in the Abbey Church will be suspended until after Easter or for the period of time determined by Archbishop Paul Coakly.

According to a statement from Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen, while public attendance is suspended, Mass at the Abbey Church is open for private prayer between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Lawrence also said the Monks' Marketplace will be closed until after Easter including the sale of Abbey eggs and the Abbey guest rooms will be closed to reservations until May 1.

"We live in solidarity with those whose lives are being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic," Lawerence said. "We will continue to offer the full Liturgy of the Hours for the intentions of our living and deceased oblates, family members, friends, alumni, benefactors and of all those who have requested or who need our prayers. In your charity, please pray for us as well."

In addition to IBC and the Abbey Church, other churches including Faith Christian Outreach Shawnee, First Baptist Church of Shawnee, Wesley United Methodist Church, St. Paul's Methodist Church, Life Church Shawnee, Wallace Avenue Baptist and several others have suspended in-person activities and activities until further notice.

According to its website, Faith Christian Outreach has postponed all public gatherings until further notice and will have online services Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. which can be viewed on their website at faithco.org.

First Baptist Church of Shawnee shared a video on its website explaining to its patrons that the church will have an online service on Sunday, March 22 at 10:45 a.m. and all in-person events and activities are canceled now through April 11. For more information visit firstshawnee.com.

Wesley United Methodist Church will be closed and events are canceled until further notice but according to their Facebook page, leaders of the church will send out daily devotions to people each week and encourage patrons to connect on Facebook for activities and online services.

Like other churches in the community, St. Paul's Methodist Church will also be closed, but has decided to follow guidelines from the CDC and remain closed for eight weeks. At this time the church expects to return to services on Sunday, May 10 or Mother's Day. For more information visit shawneestpauls.com.

Similar to larger churches in the area, Life Church Shawnee has closed its campus but will offer various services that can be live-streamed on their website at https://www.life.church/shawnee/.

According to its website, Wallace Avenue Baptist Church will also have live streaming services on Sunday mornings and will stream those to its Facebook page at 9:30 a.m. For more information visit wallaceave.com.

Lastly, according to pastor of Shawnee First Christian Church Ray Belford, this year's Ecumenical Community Lenten Worship Series has been canceled.

Belford said this yearly series is a combination of area churches hosting various services until Good Friday. The series began in late February and all events since then have been canceled.

These and other churches have informed the public of these new methods and have all promised to monitor the COVID-19 situation and post or share any new information with their congregations as it becomes available.

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