Churches in Houston are adapting to the changing circumstances owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And with this weekend being Easter, pastors are working on ways to note one of the key dates of the Christian faith.
For Pastor Mike McIntyre of the Houston Pentecostal Church it involves his guitar and the internet.
“What I’m planning to do is find a hill, I don’t know which one just yet, and take my guitar up there on Easter Sunday and do a service as the sun comes up,” he said last week of his plans to record his service. He’ll then go home, edit it and put it on the church’s Facebook page.
He’ll play a song he wrote called ‘Sunday Morning’ and the sermon will be about what Mary Magdalene experienced when she went to the tomb of Jesus.
“Can you imagine what she’s feeling inside, the darkness and then realizing it’s him,” said McIntyre. “Even for non-believers, it’s a message of healing.”
As with other churches, McIntyre has suspended in-person services following public health orders concerning gathering in groups, but is keeping in touch by phone, email and the internet with his congregation.
Through his 25 years in Houston and his 31 years altogether as a pastor, McInytre has a firm read of his congregation.
“I think they’re doing quite well,” he said. “No one’s panicking.”
He attributes a lot of that to the resilience of the people of Houston and area, but also to their faith.
“When I first arrived, we lost a child a year for the first six or seven years. I realized then there are the hard times that life gives you that you learn how to deal with,” McIntyre said.
He describes the current situation as the biggest challenge facing society since the Second World War.
“And we haven’t begun yet to determine what comes next,” McIntyre continued.
In these times, McIntyre has been relying on Micah Chapter 7, Verse 8 as a guide post: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.”
“People need to have a relationship with Christ; it helps them,” he said.
For Pastor Charles Van Hoffen who has been with the Houston Christian Reformed Church going on four years, Psalm 23 is his reference point.
He specifically points to Verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Without in-person worship he, like McIntyre, has been relying on electronic means to communicate.
“Our church has a Facebook page and with phone calls, emails and texts, I’ve been doing what I can to gather the people together,” he said.
“I’ve been figuring things out — a series of sermons, also doing audio messages and video messages as well. Scripture, prayers — I’ve been doing that.”
For Easter this weekend, Van Hoffen is also planning messages for Good Friday and for Easter Sunday.
“I’m going to do what I can to gather people together,” he notes.
Aside from responding to COVID-19 situations, Van Hoffen adds he’s been following through on other concerns such as families dealing with cancer.
“There are challenges that are ongoing,” he said. “As a church we look out for each other.”
If Van Hoffen is busy responding to and supporting his congregation, he himself finds the support from his family as a personal benefit.
“There are also the elders of the church. They’ve been helpful in connecting with others, seniors or people so they do not feel isolated.”
“God has not left us. He is with us through this. He has a purpose in all of this,” Van Hoffen said.