Patrick Baird

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — All across the country, church services have looked differently due to the COVID–19 pandemic and religious leaders have worked to adapt to the new environment.

Church leaders in Rock Hill are in no way excluded from the challenges that were brought about by the pandemic, as many struggle to figure out the best way to go about gathering safely.

“I think one of the hardest parts of leading a church in COVID is the difference of opinions from the membership,” said Pastor Dave Kiehn of Park Baptist Church in Rock Hill.

“You have some people who are very nervous about the pandemic and don’t think that we should be gathering at all, and you have others who are very skeptical of the information that is being put out.” 

As a result, many churches have tried different tactics to implement safety precautions for their members.

“Facebook live…that was the only thing offered for a while and now we are offering multiple services,” said John Whitaker, a college pastor in Rock Hill.

“Not because we want to, but because of safety reasons. You know, social distancing, wearing mask, offering a service inside, offering a service outside, masks are to be worn except during the preaching then they can take them off,” said Whitaker. 

As churches in the state have reopened, many have had to get creative — including hosting bible study via Zoom and meeting in parked cars in the parking lot — in order to provide a variety of different options for the entirety of the congregation to take part in services.

“We’ve been streaming online service since COVID started pretty much,” said Gerald Wheaton, who attends church in Rock Hill.

“Even now that we are meeting in person, we are still streaming online, which is great, because that allows members of the body who are worried about the virus to still participate and be a part of the body in that way and meet kind of with the body,” said Wheaton. “That’s awesome.”

While some churchgoers are concerned about safety, others are worried about the spiritual and mental health of fellow members.

“Some members aren’t seeing other members and that kind of makes it harder, because I was actually talking to someone the other day. They felt like the social media presence has been less gracious and patient with each other and they think it is because they haven’t actually seen each other. That is one of the main reasons it’s been different,” said Whitaker.

Regardless, as the COVID–19 pandemic continues to progress, churches leaders say they will continue to adapt to the challenges each day brings.