BREVARD COUNTY — In a time where people who are used to celebrating religious services are no longer able to do so in public, many churches are finding new ways to connect with their members.
At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cocoa Stake President Michael Fowler said that under the direction of a local bishop, members have the opportunity to worship and partake of the sacrament from the safety of their own homes each week.
“In the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we are taught that members of Christ's Church mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” Stake President Fowler said. “Throughout the world people are suffering and we mourn with them. Social distancing limits the type of service we can provide for our neighbors, friends, and fellow members in an effort to be safe. We are finding creative new ways to stay connected and be helpful to others.”
State President Fowler added that since 2019, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been using a home-based, church supported curriculum called “Come Follow Me” that offers New Testament and Book of Mormon videos and study aids.
This material is free and available by visiting www.churchofjesuschrist.org.
Similarly, members looking for a personal, guided gospel study can contact the missionaries at (321) 230-4436.
At Suntree United Methodist Church, members looking to deepen their understanding of God can view online devotionals and bible studies throughout the week.
“What has been the most challenging is the reality that everything that we do as a church is uniquely tied to our ability to be present with people, in community, in pain, in sorrow, in joy and in celebration,” said Annette Stiles Pendergrass, SUMC senior pastor.
“The church is built on the power of relationship with God through Christ that is made real and tangible in our relationships with one another,” she continued. “Not having the opportunity to share in that presence with one another has been incredibly hard. We are learning that our presence with one another supersedes the reality of social distancing. We are indeed present to one another, in prayer, in spirit, in love, compassion and care.”
Members of Suntree United Methodist Church can view recorded services that go live on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. by visiting www.suntreeumc.org or its Facebook page “SuntreeUMC.”
Pastor Dave Jahn of Advent Lutheran Church also shared the challenges of not being able to preach to a present congregation.
“So much of our lives and our daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms revolve around meeting with and being with people,” Pastor Jahn said. “To live and plan with no personal contact has been disorienting for most of us. We are adjusting, but look forward to face-to-face contact again.”
Advent Lutheran Church is currently offering recorded worship services for online viewing. They are posted on Saturday evenings and may be viewed any time after by visiting www.adventbrevard.org.
Additionally, Pastor Jahn said that Advent Lutheran’s organist, Director of Youth and Family Ministries, and others, have posted videos to help the community to thrive and grow in their faith.
“God doesn't waste anything and is with us in the midst of everything,” Pastor Jahn said. “If we ask for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts, we will find creative and meaningful ways to serve and be a blessing, even in the midst of a pandemic. If we focus on what we don't have we will be angry and depressed. If we focus on what we have to give as God's children, we will be amazed at how blessed we truly are.”
Friendship Fellowship at Pineda, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, is offering a different service that makes it unique to the community.
Members can check out a podcast series entitled “Light the Chalice” that is available on Friendship Fellowship at Pineda’s Facebook page and on iTunes.
New podcasts are released on Saturday nights, while most people listen to them on Sunday at 10:30 a.m., according to Reverend Amy Kindred.
“One of the most rewarding parts of church life is that we are a community of caring, loving people,” Rev. Kindred said. “Interacting, sharing joys and sorrows, and learning together is so important. Occasional zoom meetings help but it's just not the same.
“Look around, especially at this time of year. We are surrounded by symbolism for how love life resurfaces after hardship,” Rev. Kindred continued. “We see it in nature and in our rituals. Hang onto hope. A future of joy and new opportunities to meet together again is just around the corner.”
At St. John the Evangelist Catholic Community, saying the church was closed was the hardest decision Reverend John Britto Antony, c.s.c., member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said he had to make in his whole life.
St. John’s continues to offer Sunday Mass via live stream at 11 a.m., and members can view these services by visiting its Facebook page or website www.stjohnviera.org.
St. John’s is also offering the Sacrament of Confession by appointment only, and those who attend can receive Communion after Confession, as well as palms that are available from Palm Sunday.
Rev. Britto (who also goes by Fr. John by his parishioners), said he has been pleased to see people coming to pray at the Grotto just outside of the church.
“Even now, I see two people praying,” Fr. John said. “People often come and quietly sit there, and pray the rosary or the Stations of the Cross throughout the day. It’s amazing to see how people are filled with faith.”
St. John’s is hosting a food drive to support the community. Families and individuals can call the church to schedule a time to pick up non-perishable items on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those who need food can drive up, open their trunk, and a volunteer will place a meal basket in the car.
People can drop off non-perishable items to the church office as well, to help support those in need.
Rabbi Cantor Patricia Hickman is finding new ways to keep her congregation at Temple Israel of Brevard engaged. Members can view live services each Friday at 7 p.m. and a second night Seder on the Temple's YouTube channel.
All services are being recorded from home, Rabbi Hickman noted.
Additionally, Temple Israel of Brevard is hosting a "Bagels and Bible Study" each Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on Zoom.
"My prayer is that everyone find the blessings in each and every day," Rabbi Hickman said. "We are all so fragile living in a fragile world – make every moment count – treasure your loved ones and reach out in any way you can to those in need.
"There are many ways, even from the safety of our homes, that we can be a blessing to our world," she continued. "Call someone who you know is alone and lonely, send in a few pennies if you can to those less fortunate, learn something new to occupy your mind, rest and read a wonderful book, and above all turn your fear over to the Holy One."
For more information about Temple Israel of Brevard's Bible study, contact Rabbi Hickman at firstname.lastname@example.org.