FAITH IN THE UNEXPECTED: Church activities returning as COVID declines

Published 4:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2022

Two years ago, the pastors of area churches found themselves in a position they never anticipated; denying parishioners access to one of the few places people can go when they’re in pain and need — the church.

Like one of the biblical plagues on Egypt, COVID-19 swept in, making many people sick, causing fear of contamination in others and making it difficult for pastors to minister their flocks.

And because the churches were closed, they had to find other ways to reach their congregations turning to the Internet and streaming services on websites like Facebook and Instagram.

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But as the pandemic wore on and began showing signs of waning, pastors and their flocks began slowly returning to church; at first under restrictions like masks and social distancing and then under less restrictive but still cautious measures.

Now, with the pandemic slowly dissipating and the threat of the Omicron variant lessening, some pastors say they are resuming regular activities.

“We’re at full speed,” said Dr. Matt Buckles, pastor of First Baptist Church. “We have gone back to a full schedule; back to full ministries. We came back in increments, but as of last month, we are full steam. Our attendance has picked up; our activities are in full swing.”

The Rev. Kevin Bradley, the pastor of Crawford Street United Methodist Church, said the church has no restrictions.

“We’re open back up and encouraging folks to come back,” Bradley said. “We let folks know if you’re more comfortable wearing your mask, we have masks available and we have hand sanitizer available and we have put the filters in the HVAC units that are supposed to help with virus control and will continue to stay in.

“We are back with our full Wednesday schedules and of course Sunday morning worship as well,” he added. “The different circles and our boards and committee meetings are meeting in person as well.”

He said people are able to participate through Zoom if they wish.

Joanna King, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, said the diocese has been allowing parishes to make some local decisions on their own with regard to handling COVID “since the local reality and makeup of our parishes around the diocese varies so greatly.”

She said the diocese encourages the use of masks, but they are not required, adding the Priest’s Council, which advises the bishop, still does not advise offering the wine to parishioners because of health concerns with the virus.

 “All of our ministries are fully back up. We are able to plan family and community events and we are excited about being able to do that,” a spokesperson for Crossways Church said, adding people can still wear masks when they come to services and events if they wish.

The drop in the pandemic also means the return of an annual event at Hawkins United Methodist Church, 3736 Halls Ferry Road.

After a two-year absence, the church will have its barbecue chicken dinner and church-wide garage sale on April 2 featuring barbecue chicken dinners, a bake sale and plant and garage sales at the church. The proceeds are used by the Hawkins United Methodist Men and Women groups to fund mission projects in the Vicksburg area.

The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has allowed its rectors to return to normal activities, said Sam Godfrey, rector of Christ Episcopal Church.

“We have been instructed to use the normal practices but always being aware of our local situation,” Godfrey said. “We have resumed the use of the common chalice as of this past Sunday per permission from the diocese.”

He added that people who wish to dip the bread in the wine can do so.

“We are having our Bible studies and we will have our Holy Week services,” Godfrey added.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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