With measures in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, local churches have cancelled traditional services and learned to adjust. Some have turned to live-streaming their services to connect with families at home during this difficult time.
Two Atascosa County churches live-streaming services include Cowboy Fellowship in Jourdanton and St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pleasanton.
For three to four weeks now, Cowboy Fellowship has live-streamed its 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services on Sundays. The week before last, people from 19 different states watched the service.
Cowboy Fellowship Pastor Pete Pawelek offered some tips for viewers to remember when watching a church service at home.
He advises the faithful to prepare and truly focus on watching it as a family, rather than just having the church service on as background noise while you do chores. While it’s easy now to be in your pajamas or lounge around in bed, he encourages people to treat it like worship.
Pawelek emphasized it is an interactive worship service, not a sitcom or a movie.
“This is what myself and all pastors are trying to create, via online, but it takes the congregation participating in that. They have to stand up. They have to sing. They have to open their Bibles, take notes, those kinds of things,” Pawelek said.
While the coronavirus is currently not prevalent in the county, Pawelek said it has made hospital visits harder.
“We’ve got several people that are on hospice who are in their final days, so we’re having to be creative with how we do ministry, to protect them, to protect us and everybody else. There have been a lot of people getting laid off that we’re trying to minister to,” Pawelek said.
The church is working to support families, their children at home, teachers and first responders.
“We’ve been pretty proactive in trying to support some of these people that are on the front lines, not just the medical workers, but others as well. So we haven’t really seen an increase in volume. It’s kind of been about the same, just different kinds of needs.”
As a way of showing thanks and appreciation, in March, Cowboy Fellowship teamed up with Sunshine House Coffee in Jourdanton for a special promotion offering a free drink to all first responders. The following week, Cowboy Fellowship partnered with Café Chris in Pleasanton to offer $10 off a meal to anyone in the grocery business.
On Monday, Pawelek shared this week’s promotion: $10 off a meal at The Office Bar & Grill, 205 Hunt. St. in Pleasanton, for anyone in the education/ school system. This includes teachers, custodians, counselors, superintendents, etc.
Pawelek also encourages people to focus on their faith. A crisis, whether it’s a hurricane, virus or personal crisis like divorce, accelerates everything and really fine tunes us, he explained.
Rather than worrying or being anxious, Pawelek invites others to put that effort into praying, reading the Bible and going to church. One great thing about the nation’s current situation is that Pawelek gets to take part in three or four different churches each Sunday.
“I’ve got friends that pastor churches and I’m watching their live streams on Sunday. This isn’t all negative. It’s not all doom and gloom,” Pawelek said. “This didn’t catch God by surprise. He’s in control.”
Pawelek reminds others it is going to be okay and we will get through this.
“I’m encouraging everybody to do the social distancing and to do their best to take care of themselves and their families, but mainly just to remember that God is in control. At the end of the day we’re going to look back and I really believe that people are going to say that we’re better because of this. I think as a country we’ll be stronger. As a community we’ll be stronger and I think our churches will be stronger because of this as well.”
This unique time in history has taught many what truly is important. Pawelek pointed out how, for example, before this many felt they could not live without sports.
“I think a lot of families are starting to realize sports aren’t really that important. We can live without this. Maybe our life is even better because we’ve slowed down and we’re not as busy.”
He encourages families to take advantage of this time. Spend it with your children and your spouse. Play board games, read scripture together and invest in yourself and your family.
Cowboy Fellowship has a free app available through the Google Play Store. You can watch sermons, fill out Sermon Notes, donate through Online Giving and be informed about church events.
St. Andrew Catholic Church
This Holy Week, St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pleasanton is live-streaming everyday at 7 p.m. and Easter Mass at 10 a.m.
Father Prasanna Mese, the priest at St. Andrew, addressed conducting services without parishioners inside the church.
“It is very difficult to celebrate Mass without people and you feel lonely. Now I’m getting used to that because of the people’s response online. So we feel their presence there, all those who are watching,” said Mese.
The positive response the church has received has helped Mese and the church staff. He enjoys being able to lift up their spirits. He explained how often the internet is used for entertainment, or to relax.
“But now we are using it to praise and worship the Lord. I also told them [the viewers] the first church started at home, so now we are back to domestic church coming together as a family.”
Mese added, “Maybe there’s a reason, to teach us a lesson, to come together as a family. We were busy and caught up in so many things. This is God teaching us a lesson, to give time for him.”
During Monday’s service, Father Mese shared the story of Elijah in the Bible.
“Elijah was so powerful, but he was afraid of Jezebel, and ran away. He prayed to God, ‘Take away my life.’ He was so powerful, and when he prayed everything happened to him, except the prayer that he asked God.”
He added, “In the history of the Bible, he is one of the two who never experienced death.”
It demonstrates how we need time to quarantine to qualify, and to be connected with God.
On Facebook, the church has received so many messages from people sending prayer requests. Many are afraid of the future or asking how long the virus will be around.
“So many, not only from Pleasanton, are sending in requests, we have more than 800 requests. We are praying also for those who are affected, especially in our county, from the coronavirus.”
Those wishing to donate to St. Andrew can donate through the mail, drop it by the mail box in front of the office, or text “Sunday” to 830-218-1594.
Community Bible Chapel
Local resident Amanda Trapani attends Community Bible Chapel and posted a photo on Facebook of her children Christopher, Eli, Josiah and Benaiah Trapani watching a livestreaming service.
“They were participating in the children’s moment our pastor does each Sunday. This particular Sunday, the children’s moment was about Jesus calming the storm. They were acting out the storm. This is a great way for them to learn to trust God in these turbulent times. I’m grateful our Pastor Nigel Kelly takes time to invest in the lives of our children,” said Trapani.
Community Bible Chapel premieres their service on YouTube at their regular service time of 10:45 a.m. Links can be found on their church website cbcpleasanton.org.
Please check out the Pleasanton Express Resource Guide which has a complete listing of Atascosa County churches that are holding services.