The Lord’s Day is going online.
Churches and places of worship throughout Santa Barbara County plan to hold online services or cancel them altogether as a result of the coronavirus fears that are sweeping the nation.
All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, Hope Santa Barbara and Reality Santa Barbara are among the many churches that plan to stream services online.
Services at the Santa Barbara Mission were to continue as planned, as of Saturday afternoon.
“It’s crazy out there; there’s a lot of uncertainty and fears,” Calvary Chapel Pastor Tommy Schneider said in a video message. “To be great stewards in our community, and be mindful of the need for us not to have large gatherings, I want to invite you to join us on our livestream services.
“You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to follow Christ in your own home.”
Schneider said there are some benefits.
“You can do it in your PJs, which is kind of a plus, your coffee in your hand,” he said. “You are cozy in that environment.”
Concern about the coronavirus has hit the nation hard in the gut, bringing many industries to their knees. Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered a halt to gatherings of more than 250 people. Schools and most government offices have closed. Some private businesses have ordered employees to work remotely. Sporting events have shut down and spring seasons have been canceled. Panicked people have raided stores, stocking up on toilet paper, water, soap, disinfectant and frozen foods.
Places of worship, which provide hope and healing for parishioners, aren’t immune to concerns about the pandemic.
“The coronavirus has understandably frightened people around the world and compelled us to change our behaviors, which includes in the manner we engage in the public worship of God,” said Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In a video message to parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Santa Barbara, he said the church has suspended the obligation to attend Mass.
“This means many of you will be staying home this weekend rather than go to church,” Barron said.
He invited church members to participate in a different way. He suggested that they visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website and find the readings for the liturgy.
“Then, with your family or a small group of friends, read the Scriptures out loud together,” Barron said. “Afterward, each person could share one thought or idea that has struck him or her.”
Free United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara has suspended all church services through March “out of an abundance of love and caution.”
“In accordance with the Santa Barbara County Public Health guidelines and mandates about no large public gatherings, and with wisdom from our church leaders, we have decided to suspend our in-person weekly worship services until further notice,” the pastoral staff said in a statement.
In an email to parishioners at All Saints Church in Montecito, the Rev. Aimée Eyer-Delevett noted the coronavirus’ risk to the congregation’s “intergenerational community.”
“This decision has come after significant prayer and consultation,” she said. “One of the gifts of the church is the rich intergenerational community we share. Of course, that also means that we have a significant number of people whom the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has identified as being at higher risk.”
The All Saints sanctuary was gutted last year for seismic retrofitting so the church has been holding several services each weekend in its much smaller parish hall.
“I am not able to ensure that we can achieve a safe social distance while worshiping in the Parish Hall; we can, however, provide virtual services,” Eyer-Delevett said.
Many of the churches that will hold online services have done it before, after the Thomas Fire in December 2017.
In a video message, Pastor Chris Lazo explained Reality Santa Barbara’s plan to respond to the coronavirus.
With the record-breaking drought, fire, flash flooding and debris flows, and now the coronavirus, Lazo said, “sometimes it seems like Santa Barbara just can’t catch a break. And yet, it is not just Santa Barbara this time. The entire world is hurting.”
“Starting this Sunday, instead of gathering in-person, church will be streamed online and all of our small groups and classes will be postponed until further notice,” he said.
The service, Lazo said, will be called “The Promise in the Panic,” and it will be centered on the coronavirus.
First Christian Church of Santa Maria will livestream services on Sunday and through March.
“We’ve been informed that Santa Barbara County has officially put in place a mandate of social distancing,” Lead Pastor Jim Larrabee said in a statement. “This includes suspending large gatherings of over 250 and having 6 feet between people of smaller groups.
“Due to county mandate, all services will be available online only until the end of March 2020. This includes all small groups, events and classes on campus.”