Downtown Abilene was eerily quiet Sunday morning as parking lots at St. Paul United Methodist, First Central Presbyterian, and First Baptist churches were practically empty.

That doesn’t mean nothing was happening inside. St. Paul and First Baptist broadcast services live as usual, although with no congregations, and First Central Presbyterian aired via Facebook.

Sunday morning was challenging. Churches all over town and across the country were shuttered because of the shutdown brought by the coronavirus threat. The “shelter in place” mandate means no church for a while. But it doesn’t mean church staffs can’t be creative. On Sunday, churches found ways of communicating, whether through televised broacasts, Facebook or other online means, or just a message to members.

A small music team and Dr. Phil Christopher, senior pastor at First Baptist Church, brought assurances and a much-needed lifting of spirits with a “makeshift church service.” At the beginning of the service, Christopher cited Psalm 3:3:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

“We have a God who’s the lifter up of our heads,” Christopher assured. “We have a God who is with us in everything.”


Parking lots were empty Sunday morning, March 22, as services were cancelled due to the coronavirus threat. Top left to right are St. Paul UMC and Aldersgate UMC. Bottom left to right are First Baptist and 11th and Willis Church of Christ. Middle right is First Central Presbyterian. Photos by Loretta Fulton

During the service, a previously recorded choral presentation based on the Psalm, was played. Christopher read from some of the responses to a request for ways that people are maintaining. One person listed some “C’s” for coping with the coronavirus crisis such as creativity, communicating, calming, and Christ. One woman listed things she was grateful for, including a son who checks on her daily.

One person noted that “hitting a pause button on our crazy lives has been a blessing I didn’t know I needed.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a range of reactions, from hoarding to volunteering at social ministries to help the most vulnerable. Christopher offered a pastoral approach to the crisis, which all can follow.

“Perhaps we all can look for ways to care for each other,” he said.





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