Rural Congregations Returning to In-Person Worship

Members of Oakton United Methodist Church reading from a hymn book during worship. Source: UM News

Across the United States, rural congregations are returning to in-person worship after months of virtual worship, Zoom bible studies, and parking lot services.

For Pat and Kenneth Thurmond, members of Oakton United Methodist Church, they can’t wait to return. Pat said, “We had a big group hug up here before COVID. We’ve got to do that again.”

The congregation located in Hickman County in Kentucky had seven attendees at its June 13 in-person worship service.

“It’s nice to be able to touch people,” said Laura Vincent, the lay pastor serving Oakton. “Everybody had their vaccines. We cleaned everything.”

According to Rev. Randy Wall, a part-time pastor and president of United Methodist Rural Advocates, COVID-19 hit small, rural churches particularly hard. Wall said, “There are a lot of communities where they don’t have internet or very reliable internet. If you are in a church that doesn’t have internet connected to it, how can you do a Zoom worship service?”

During the pandemic, the seniors at Oakton congregation learned to use Zoom to connect with each other. Pam Ward, one of the attendees at the June 13 in-person worship service, commenting on her Zoom experiences, “It was OK because we were still hearing the Word. But it’s nothing like coming and being right here in the building. We missed that more than anything.”

Commenting on the day’s in-person service, Pam said, “We can touch now, shake hands again, where there for a year, you couldn’t do anything like that.”

The worship service started with the hymn, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Additional selections were recommended by members of the congregation.

“It always works,” said Pastor Vincent. “What they choose always goes along with the Word.”

After the service, Vincent spoke with the members of the congregation checking on their health and praying with parishioners. Elated about the return to in-person, Pastor Vincent is optimistic about the congregation’s future.

Source: UM News