Across Illinois, churches gathered for a different kind of worship March 22. Hours after a statewide stay-at-home order went into effect, church members attended Sunday services in their living rooms. Many pastors preached from home, or via pre-recorded sermons posted online.
Chance and Ginger Newingham worshiped with three of their children and their live-in grandma, Mickey Oller. The family is part of Delta Church in Springfield, which livestreamed its Sunday service on Facebook.
Ginger said they tested their technology prior to the 10 a.m. start time, and rearranged the living room to allow Edward, 8, Louis, 6, and Walter, 1-and-a-half, to take sermon notes using a handout provided by the church.
“The sermon notes page requests that the kids listen for specific words during the sermon (Jesus, prayer, grace, Bible, etc.),” she said. “This helped keep them interested in what was being taught.
“In reality though, one of our school-age kids drew a handful of Pokémon pictures while our toddler kept asking us to read his picture books to him. It wasn’t picture perfect. But we were together and bringing glory to God through our obedience of gathering together.”
Around the state, thousands of families engaged in similar worship experiences. From Carol Stream, Crossroads Community Church livestreamed services at 9 and 11 a.m., with Pastor Scott Nichols encouraging his church to listen for God’s voice in a very distracting season.
“Trade worry for worship,” Nichols preached. “Trade trouble for truth. Trade fear for trust.”
Fellow pastors in Chicagoland also preached on the current “new reality” of the Coronavirus pandemic. Pastor Adron Robinson reminded Hillcrest Baptist Church that the congregation will continue to fast and pray this week for all those affected by the virus, asking God to end the pandemic. Pastor Jonathan de la O encouraged Starting Point Community Church to avoid “spiritual distancing,” even as they practice responsible social distancing encouraged by health officials.
In lieu of in-person Sunday school or weekly Bible study, many churches made resources available online. Pastor Bob Dickerson pre-recorded his weekly Sunday school lesson and put it on YouTube. LifeWay and other ministries are posting free resources for kids, students, and families.
‘Every hour, I need you’
After listening to their pastor, Jonathan Davis, preach a message from the Gospel of Luke, the Newinghams took turns choosing worship songs to sing together.
“Our kids don’t fully understand the pandemic,” Ginger said, “but they chose songs with lyrics like, ‘There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy,’ ‘Every hour I need you,’ and ‘I am yours forevermore. I won’t be moved, of this I’m sure.’”
The family is growing closer during this time of quarantine, she said, and learning from each other. “This week, I was not annoyed by my children distracting me from worship (as I often am on Sunday mornings) but I took the time to notice what they each bring to our time of gathering.
“We smiled more and took the time to answer our children’s questions, rather than shushing them. We’re learning more and more ways to include them in our times of worship.”