Members adapt to stay-at-home church, fulfilling callings remotely

Courtney Porritt, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Vineyard, Utah, reads the scriptures with her children during their at-home church service on Sunday, April 19. (Courtney Porritt)

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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been trying to adapt to church at home and fulfill their callings remotely as religious services around the world have been disrupted due to COVID-19.

“We get a lot of emails from local leaders with announcements and encouragement during this time of separation,” said Felicia Preston, a member of the Church in Yuma, Arizona.

Many Church leaders at ward and stake levels have been creating video messages for their congregations or hosting Zoom leadership meetings. Others actively participate in ward Facebook groups to continue connecting with ward members.

Despite the physical separation from their ward, Preston and her family have been making the most of their circumstances when it comes to church. On Sundays, she and her husband participate in an at-home church service with her parents, which includes prayers, hymns, talks and the sacrament.

“Our bishop’s conditions for us blessing the sacrament in our own home are that we follow the same kind of agenda used during normal church,” she said. “The sacrament is blessed and passed, and we have a short talk by someone. We also take a moment to discuss any emails sent by local or church leaders so that everyone is up to date on Church news.”

Preston said they also take time to study and discuss the “Come, Follow Me” lesson, which has helped them “bond over the gospel.”

“It has really helped us to not only block out more time for spiritual learning, but it also helps us have meaningful discussions,” she said. “It gets us engaging with the material and each other.”

Lanae Lewis, a Church member in Murray, Utah, said though there are difficulties, she’s seen the blessings of not having church be “normal.”

“It really helps people realize what priorities are,” she said. “That has been a blessing in our home. We can make Sundays be different because we want them to be different — no one’s making us do this, but it’s something that we are choosing to do.”

Lewis is the Primary music leader for her ward. When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred and forced churches to close their doors, she decided to make a video to teach the Primary children the rest of a song they had been learning.

“I wanted them to learn it before General Conference,” she said, adding that the title of the song was “My Own Sacred Grove.”

“So I just put together a video and taught them the rest of the song and posted it,” she said. “It was fun to see people’s responses, especially the moms, who were like, ‘my daughter really loved seeing you today.'”

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Lanae Lewis recorded a video of herself teaching the rest of a Primary song and posted it for the kids to learn. (Lanae Lewis)

The last week she was with the Primary, Lewis had asked the kids to come prepared the next week to share where their own personal “Sacred Grove” was, so she included the question in her video to allow the kids and parents to still participate.

Though the future is unsure, like when the Primary program will be held, Lewis said she is still encouraging the parents of the Primary children to help them practice the songs they’ve learned.

Courtney Porritt, the Young Women president of her ward in Vineyard, Utah, said she’s also been trying to fulfill her calling digitally.

Porritt and her presidency have been doing virtual activities, like games and scavenger hunts, with the young women via Zoom. They also dropped off packets to each of the girls’ houses for General Conference and Easter, which including coloring pages that the girls could take pictures of and share with the group.

“So we’re still interacting, even if we can’t see each other,” she said.

Porritt said that since her presidency is new, getting to know the girls virtually has been difficult, but she added that they realized that they could still fulfill their top priority.

“Really what it came down to was we need to make sure that (the young women) know that we love them and that we’re there,” she said. “That is a big thing for us.”

Porritt noted that her presidency has seen strides in getting responses from the young women, and getting to know their parents. “We’re still reaching out, and we’re still getting responses from people now, whereas I felt like we didn’t beforehand. That’s been a huge blessing for us because we are getting to know the parents as well as the kids.”

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