As the novel coronavirus pandemic rages on in the United States, several measures are being implemented in order to slow the spread.
Pastors nationwide have been hit with the difficult decision of whether to continue praising and worshiping the Lord with their local congregations or to cancel services until the virus is under control and recommendations for “social distancing” are lifted.
Many churches have opted to take advantage of technology in order to allow their members to “gather” for worship online. Others have instead tried out a “drive-in” style service, preaching from the steps of the church building while congregants listen from inside their vehicles.
A pastor in Saco, Maine, however, has found a way to safely fill every pew in his church each Sunday—well, sort of. Scott Cousineau, the senior pastor of First Parish Church, taped photos of each of his parishioners to the pews of the church where he livestreams his sermons.
“Of course every pastor’s worst fear is preaching to an empty sanctuary,” Cousineau told News Center Maine. “But I never imagined I would be preaching to an array of photographs.”
This is cool— First Parish Congregational Church in Saco is doing online services. The minister decided he wanted to preach to a full house so he asked his congregation to send in pictures that he could place in the pews. pic.twitter.com/MZqV2w7PeD
— Lindsey Mills (@LindseyMills7) March 22, 2020
“I’ve always talked about the power of presence but presence is a challenge right now,” said Cousineau of the 120 photos he preaches to each Lord’s Day. “We have to be creative about the ways that we connect.”
Cousineau said his church typically streams their Sunday service online anyway, but this is the first time the entire congregation has had to participate in worship by these means.
Worship services aren’t the only functions of the local body of Christ affected by shutdowns and social distancing recommendations, Cousineau said. Even funerals have been postponed.
“I actually got a call from a family this week and the funeral service for their loved one is on hold until we can safely gather,” Cousineau said.
“You know the mourning and the grieving and the closure is put on hold and it’s a very difficult time for families to go through a time of loss,” he added.
Still, Cousineau had one message to give those affected by the isolation: “We can all do this together.”
Saints, though many of us may be apart, we do not need to forsake assembling to worship the Lord. Keep up with your churches, your pastors, your small groups in this time. And, as always stick close to the fount of God’s Word, especially during such times of trouble!
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