Roanoke Pastors share how their churches are handling COVID-19


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Local churches are finding new ways to have worship services amid coronavirus concerns.

“It’s caused us to be a little bit more creative. Necessity is the mother creation,” says Bishop Malverse Simpson of Spirit of Liberty Worship Center.

After Governor Ralph Northam banned all gatherings of more than 10 people to protect the health and safety of Virginians, churches throughout the Commonwealth have been moving their worship services online.

Church members at Spirit of Liberty are now tuning in through the church’s Facebook page.

“[The coronavirus pandemic] has really caused us to reach out to other avenues to spread the Gospel, because even though we may be in seclusion, the Gospel is not bound. We still can reach as many people as we possibly can reach,” says Bishop Simpson.

Through the use of social media, faith-based messages are being received by people from areas other than Roanoke.

Last Sunday, hundreds of viewers tuned in to the church’s special Palm Sunday service.

Along with virtual services, the church also hosts a prayer line every Wednesday at 6 a.m.

Bishop Simpson says he’s also been reaching out to other churches to see how they’re handling their services during COVID-19.

“I’ve called some of them saying, ‘I hope you’re not having the congregation on Sunday,” says Bishop Simpson. “You want to obey the law. You want to be one of the ones in the city that they can say that this person respects and obeys the law because that’s what they’re there for.”

Two weeks ago, church leaders at Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in started conference call services.

Pastor Alonzo Smith says the new method is a way to protect their church members, many of whom are seniors who have pre-existing illnesses.

The church has also stopped their weekly Sunday morning breakfast, which fed from 50 to 75 people.

Pastor Smith says that while he’s unable to meet his church members in-person, he still finds the time to help those in need.

“I also work as a chaplain, so I go around seeing people and find out what their needs are. For example, we bring literature to them so that they have something to read during the stay-at-home order. Some members are also in nursing facilities, which are not allowing any visitors at the moment. Many of them are feeling abandoned right now,” says Pastor Alonzo Smith.

Many people are reaching out to local pastors to express their concerns with the coronavirus outbreak. Pastor Smith stays the message he send his congregation remains the same – stay strong.

“God tells us in his word that we are not to be fearful, but we must be careful. That’s what I like to leave with my people every day every time we meet. Not to be fearful, but we must be careful,” says Pastor Smith.

They say as community leaders, it’s their job to not only keep their congregation calm — but to keep them safe and informed.

“Don’t panic, but be careful. Obey the laws of the land to make sure you don’t spread it. Believers lead the way. They are part of a solution, not part of the problem,” says Bishop Simpson.

Both Pastor Smith and Bishop Simpson says they will continue to perform online services for the time being, including Easter Sunday.

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