In a time of uncertainty, worshippers gathered at Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in downtown Frederick Sunday to find a sense of comfort and grounding.
About 40 people attended the last in-person service before the church moves to online streaming only starting next Sunday, a move several other churches have or are also making.
Attendees were relatively spread out among the pews, those congregation members taking offering wore gloves and children had marked spots 6 feet apart for the children’s message.
“When life is so challenging, people need to go to the institutions or the places or the communities where they get hope and comfort,” said the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel, senior pastor at ERUCC. “People are turning to their faith and they need to see each other … we need to sing together and pray together because our faith is a communal experience.”
Kershner Daniel also said it was important to be able to look the congregation in the face and say “we’re going to get through this.”
Colleen Baldree attended the service with her husband, Chuck, and her son, Aiden.
“There’s so much chaos and concern and fear that [has] just been growing and growing that just needed a grounding experience,” Baldree said.
The family has been attending the church for almost two years.
“We needed to show support for one another but also just to be able to be reminded to not give in to the fear but to be reminded to rely on God and that we will be taken care of,” she said.
Baldree said her immediate family doesn’t fall under the category of an at-risk population but that they are still taking precautions.
She also said that online services will be a different experience than meeting in person.
“Even two weeks ago when we stopped shaking hands … it definitely started to make an impact then,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it works … not being around the community will definitely make an impact.”
The impact will also be felt by Jenna Duranko, who sings in the church choir.
“In this time of chaos, honestly, church is definitely one of those places where people find comfort,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be different. It’ll be hard for me. Music is such an important part of my life and experience and especially with worship it’s the way I interpret scripture and really make a connection with people.”
Duranko said a service without music will feel like something is missing for her.
“It’s my church family,” Duranko said, speaking about why she came to the service Sunday. “Being in connection with these people helps keep me grounded.”
She also said that church leadership is dedicated and caring and that she trusts their judgment.
Kershner Daniel spoke about the coronavirus specifically in her sermon, referring to the work of Harvard scholar Ronald Heifetz on adaptive change.
“Making the kind of adaptive changes we’re being asked to do in these days requires trusting in God, in each other, those who are caring for us, but it also requires us to trust that something new … will emerge from this chaos in which we’re living,” she said.
Kershner Daniel told the congregation that she was concerned too.
“I’m also praying for wisdom and truth for us all,” she said. “I’m praying that the hoarding of toilet paper soon ceases because, as someone shared with me this week, my need to feel safe with 50 rolls of toilet paper might prevent my neighbor from … having any.”
The church would typically see about 160 attendees on a Sunday morning, including many elderly.
“We’re always aware,” Kershner Daniel said.
She noted that even during flu season the church has hand sanitizer available. Prior to the Sunday service, surfaces in the church were wiped down, gloves were put out and one person was designated to serve coffee so everyone wasn’t touching the coffee pot.
The church will remain online-only on a week-by-week basis.
“We are the church no matter where we are,” Kershner Daniel told the congregation.