Utah County church services head outside, online

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Pastor David Nicholson preaches to members of New Community Church at Scera Park on September 13, 2020. (Preston Crawley)

Local churches are starting to resume Sunday services. Many of them are turning to live streams and outdoor meetings to facilitate social distancing.

Rev. Susan Toone from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo said she only held virtual services when coronavirus first hit. As things have begun to open up, St. Mary’s has started holding outdoor services every other week, weather permitting.

St. Mary’s has also started a weekly Zoom meeting called W.O.W., or Women on Wednesday. “It’s more of a social gathering for those in the parish or for anybody that would just like to get together and have some time to converse and share how we’re doing,” Toone said.

Toone said St. Mary’s is still actively involved in the Food and Care Coalition. Before the pandemic, churchgoers helped serve meals to the community, but now Toone just keeps in touch and donates needed items.

Pastor David Nicholson of New Community Church in Orem is also holding his services outdoors at Scera Park. “We make it a very informal gathering,” Nicholson said. “We always do our services with food in our hands.”

Nicholson said every week the church does worship and then everyone goes to the pavilion to get food and sit down in their camping chairs, talking about the scriptures while eating.

Nicholson also streams his services through Facebook Live, something he started doing long before the pandemic. He said every week he has about 100 to 200 people who log into Facebook Live to watch the service.

One of the hardest things for Nicholson has been seeing a decrease in attendance. He said there used to be about 70 people, but the most he’s seen since the pandemic has been about 25.

In the near future, Nicholson is looking to implement colored wristbands people can wear at church so other people will know how much contact they are comfortable with. For example, those who want to keep their distance would wear a red band, those who want to be cautious would wear yellow and those who are fine with physical contact would wear green.

Mario Garcia, secretary of The Way Church in Provo said his church is holding meetings over Facebook Live as well as some services in the building with safety precautions.

“We also hold nightly prayer meetings online,” Garcia said. “As a functional body of Christ, we encourage one another via online meetings and phone calls. Some members have started hosting their own devotionals online.”

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