Two churches in Muskogee reported holding virtual worship services out of renewed concern about COVID-19 surges.
Others may follow.
The Muskogee Church Board has canceled in-person worship on Jan. 16 and will not have in-person worship on Sunday.
“A team of people come in and run an online service, plus a lot of pastoral care through phone calls and communications,” Pastor Drew Dinnel said. “The main reason is that the cases are just high. We see this affecting our congregation. When it comes to the elderly in our church and our families, we want to make sure that we are doing our best to protect them. “
Dinnel said the Nazarene congregation has followed the policy throughout the pandemic.
“If there are a significant number of cases that appear, especially after services, we go ahead and go virtual for a little while, to prevent this from spreading in the congregation,” he said. he declares. “The last time we had to go virtual was in December 2020, the last time we had significant cases around us. We practiced hand sanitizing and encouraged mask use throughout. .”
The church has also changed the way it makes offerings, he said. Instead of passing a plate, the church has a donation box and encourages members to contribute online.
“The hardest part is that we’re in a weird middle ground right now,” Dinnel said. “We know COVID will be here for a while. When we have a surge like the one we’re having right now, it was time for us to take a step back.”
The Muskogee Presbyterian Church Session voted Jan. 13 to suspend in-person worship until mid-February.
On Tuesday, the Reverend Tim Blodgett, priest general of the East Oklahoma Presbytery, asked Presbyterian churches in the region to suspend in-person worship and have online-only worship and activities for the next two weeks. The parsonage includes churches in Muskogee, Fort Gibson and Tahlequah.
Blodgett said suspending in-person worship could “allow the number of COVID-19 cases to peak and start to decline.”
“Even churches that have diligently promoted safety measures — masks, social distancing, vaccinations and staying home for potential infection — are experiencing many cases,” Blodgett said in the letter. “The virus is just too widespread and infectious.”
Trinity United Methodist Church in Muskogee will have regular worship at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. However, the congregation will meet after worship to decide whether to return to online-only services, said Reverend Cody Robinson, pastor of Trinity.
“It’s not a call I can make myself,” Robinson said.
He said no member of the church had recently been affected by the coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
However, he said he spoke with infected people every day.
“One of my best undergraduate friends, in college, died this week of secondary complications from COVID,” Robinson said. “He had a stroke, and he was only 29. He was double-vaccinated and boosted. He did the mandatory five-day quarantine. He returned to work on Monday and died Wednesday morning. It was in Tulsa/Broken Arrow.
Robinson said he went to Three Rivers Health Center to get tested earlier this week.
“And I stayed in that line to take a COVID test for three hours,” he said. “It seems like people in our town are taking this a little more seriously.”