Courtesy of The Bison

SEARCY, Ark. – As the Centers for Disease Control and state governments continue to limit group gatherings, many people have been left without the central piece of community and faith they usually find in weekly church services.

Churches across the country are providing ways to stay connected to their members, especially by live-streaming or pre-recording worship services for their congregations to tune into.

Junior Courtney Mann’s home congregation in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, has been providing pre-recorded church services, and Mann and her family helped create one of these services by joining the preacher and his wife for virtual worship.

“We were there to give everyone familiar faces to worship with and to sing along so more people would feel comfortable singing along from home,” Mann said.

Mann said she was also planning to help make videos for the children in their church family to let them know they are still loved and that there are still ways to serve God in these strange times.

Senior Caroline Nesbitt, a member of Good News Singers, said Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy has used some of the singing group’s recordings for their church services, and she has been tuning in to watch these services with her family.

“It’s nice to have a reason to be together doing the same thing,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt said although she misses being with her church family in person, Downtown church is doing a great job considering the circumstances, and it is nice to have some sense of normalcy.

Junior Brooklyn Kelly said her church has chosen to do weekly live-streamed services on Sunday, and different families from her church send videos throughout the week for encouragement and announcements. She said it was neat to experience church in that format, and it spurred conversation within her family.

Kelly said this time of social distancing has strengthened her faith by forcing her to slow down and by seeing how her church family has come together to encourage and support one another.

“In times when I need to talk to someone or anything, I know that God is there that I can talk to,” Kelly said. “There’s been a lot more time, and I’ve spent a lot more time sitting and thinking and talking to God that way because this has really slowed my life down.”

Kelly and Mann both said they have been encouraged by how diligent their churches have been to help those around them stay connected in unique ways.“I have seen my church family react to times of trouble with action,” Mann said. “They haven’t sat around waiting for the virus to end; they have been working harder than ever to spread love and encouragement to anyone and everyone. Seeing the love of God in others reminds me of just how great our God is.”