Better together: Churches find ways to connect, serve

New Hope Baptist Church members (from left) Kristin Walker, Lana Walker and pastor Ben Walker prepare free dinners. Instead of the usual Wednesday evening sit-down gathering, the church has adapted to a drive-thru takeout format.

CRESWELL — It’s a truth tacitly acknowledged in the formation of any social or religious community: we’re better together. And that’s being consciously, cooperatively affirmed by local churches in these times of enforced separation due to the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

An interfaith prayer page (; on Facebook: #praytogether #Godanswersprayer #bettertogether) has been established where people can request prayer or spiritual support, and still feel connected with each other.

“We know that these are difficult and unprecedented times, and the churches in Creswell want to know how we can be praying for you,” said Church of the Nazarene pastor Ben Umbel.

Requests will not be made public but “will go to the leaders of the churches’ various prayer ministries,” said New Hope Baptist pastor Rob Walker. Participating are Creswell’s New Hope Baptist, Church of the Nazarene, Faith Center, Hillside Church, Presbyterian Church and Church of Christ. Other local pastors are invited to join; contact Walker at [email protected].

Beyond the prayer page/hashtags, and with no end to the shutdown in sight, individual churches are livestreaming Sunday services, using video software for prayer groups and other meetings, and otherwise finding creative ways to continue serving their congregations and the larger community.

New Hope Baptist maintains its five-year tradition of free community dinners on Wednesdays, using a drive-thru format. “Last week, we served about 150 people,” Walker said. Walker has also contacted Jessica Landstra, owner of Farmlands Market, offering volunteers to deliver groceries to shut-ins unable to use the market’s new curbside pick-up option.

“She thought there may be a need for this option fairly soon,” Walker said.

Church of the Nazarene is serving local foster care eforts, providing a drop-off/pick-up point “to get resources to foster families in need during this time,” Umbel said.

But it’s togetherness that’s most missed – and needed.

“I miss going to church on Sundays and singing in the choir, and I miss our weekly luncheons in the Hall that I am involved with after church. It’s a fun social time,” said Presbyterian Church member Karen Heater.

To help fill that gap, “We are calling each other and sending ‘Thinking of you’ cards,” Heater said.

Younger parishioners, Walker noted, “seem to be staying connected with many of the gaming platforms.”

As a “people person” who “finds fulfillment in being with others,” Umbel said he also misses “the hugs, handshakes and physical presence that are so much a part of my role as pastor.”

While meeting practical needs is important, pastors are seeing the need for human contact is primary.

“Most people seem to have what they need, and I am finding through this that people are more pleased with a personal gesture – phone call, text, FaceTime, email or card – than they are with an enhanced online presence such as a church sermon or worship time,” Umbel said.

To that end, pastors are contacting members weekly, and inviting them to post particular needs to their church’s Facebook.

Aside from everyday needs, milestone events such as funerals, baptisms, confirmations, weddings and holidays are also impacted.

“Easter is going to be a little sad this year,” Heater said.

For a recent funeral at New Hope, “Instead of meeting at the church, we did a graveside service and restricted it to family only,” Walker said.

Spring and summer weddings might be postponed or include immediate family only, with larger receptions postponed.

And, “We all know, this too will pass,” Heater said.

Still, lighter and learning moments remain.

Umbel has posted engaging thoughts, songs, scriptures and conversation-starters on Facebook.

“They don’t have classes in seminary for this kind of stuff – but at least no one can tell us we are doing it wrong, since no one has ever done it before,” Walker said.

And at least one silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud: “I have enjoyed the downtime with my family,” Walker said. “In some ways, I think this has been a really good thing for families; they have had to simplify their lives and have been forced to de-stress and declutter their lives.”

It’s been said that it’s during life’s storms that people’s true colors are revealed – and many in our community are finding those colors beautiful. “God is still in control of all things,” Church of Christ pastor Doug Allison affirmed. “We are His children. We love Him and each other.”

Better together.



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