A majority of churches in the Boonslick Ministerial Alliance now are using online platforms to reach their various congregations during Gov. Mike Parson’s stay-at-home order.

Using the online services actually has increased congregations sizes alliance President Larry Fencl said, who also is past at River of Life Assembly.

About 90 people on average attend Sunday morning services at church, but because churches now are doing services online the number has increase every week to 300-400 people watching services, he said.

Nelson Memorial United Methodist Church Pastor Nick Campbell places an interactive bulletin on the church website, which follows the Sunday service. He is the alliance treasurer.

“So, there is gathering music, prelude, call to worship and all the prayers are there,” he said.

Online services also allow congregation members to take services at their own pace. Normal hours for the church service at Nelson Memorial is 8-10:20 a.m., but now people can watch it at anytime, Campbell said.

While there are indications the stay-at-home order will end in early May, the alliance doesn’t want to see a secondary COVID-19 surge by returning to in-person services too soon.

River of Life Assembly members continue to follow Centers fro Diseas Control and Prevention and the Cooper County Public Health Center’s recommendations for a return date, Fencl said. The decision will be based on when social distancing requirements are loosened when larger congregations are allowed.

“We don’t know when that is going to be,” Fencl said. “I don’t think anybody does at this time. Our people are just biting at the bit to go back to church but we want to be safe, too.”

So, in the meantime Fencl is finding other ways to reach out to parishioners.

“Sometimes I will meet people but I don’t go up and hug them and stuff like that,” he said. “I make phone calls to see how people are doing. Do they need to get medication? Do they need food? So, most of it is on the phone rather than in person.”

There currently are 15 churches in the alliance, which was founded in 1987. The purpose of the alliance is to help families.

“We can’t do everything because we don’t have a tremendous amount of money but we have some,” Fencl said. “We help people with fuel or get identification because some people go to Harvest House, [or they need it] for work and things of that nature.”

Despite this, only 12 families have contacted the alliance seeking aid since March 10. The alliance typically helps 25-30 people per month.

The alliance expects to feel a financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The alliance limits aid to $100 limit per household as it is there to help families in times of trouble, rather than continual aid, Fencl said.

Donations to the alliance are used 100% on the families it helps, he added.

“Every penny that comes in goes out to help somebody,” he said. “It’s a good program and a lot of people have gotten out of trouble with it.”

There still are parameters to how families are helped.

“Money is provided to whomever is supposed to get it, whether it be for water, food or a gas card,” Fencl said.

Churches also help out in different ways. River of Life distributes groceries to people who have children in their households.

“Every church is going something a little bit different,” Fencl said. “They’re trying to help their community. They are doing food programs and an array of things. It’s just amazing to see the church raise its head up and be the leaders they are supposed to be in a community.”

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