HARTSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW) — Leaders at Wesley United Methodist Church in Hartsville hoped to bring their congregation together during a difficult time when churches worldwide have struggled to provide normalcy during the pandemic.
Pastor Tony Adams said he had been praying that parishioners would feel safe enough to come to Friday’s service.
He said numerous COVID-19 precautions were put in place, like offering pre-packaged communion bread and wine, encouraging mask wearing and social distancing, and streaming the service on Facebook for those who stayed at home.
“The majority of our congregation is vaccinated and have had boosters, but these are things we encourage because we want people to feel comfortable when they come here,” Phyllis Griggs, lay leader at Wesley United Methodist said.
Griggs remembers a time not too long ago when the church’s sanctuary was empty and sermons were held exclusively online.
“I know that you can you can truly worship anywhere, but there is just something about coming back into the sanctuary,” Griggs said. “To me, you can feel the Holy Spirit and that is what it’s all about.”
She said part of what makes the difference is being around the other members of the congregation.
Jeffery Tadlock, the church’s director of program ministries said he hoped the service could make a difference in the lives of the parishioners.
“This service is typically one of our biggest ones of the year,” Tadlock said. “The past two or three years, things have not been very bright, but this service always brings a lot of joy to everyone as we come together to celebrate the birth of our savior.”
Adams hopes keeping their faith close will help the congregation get through the days ahead.
“The first Christmas greeting was not ‘Merry Christmas.’ When the angels appeared to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds in a dream, they said, ‘Do not be afraid,'” Adams said. “Even during this time of gathering and of separation, we hear Jesus say, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you and I will be with you all the way to the end.’”