By Drew Bergman
This is the continuation of a series of weekly articles featured in The Adair Progress about how churches in Adair County are adapting to the social distancing restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the recurring themes that has been reported upon in this series is the ways in which area pastors handle preaching to an empty sanctuary. This past Saturday night a few members of Trinity United Methodist Church paid a visit to their church to see about making the sanctuary feel a little more peopled.
Around eight o’clock that night a handful of members gathered in the sanctuary to set out photos of the church members according to where they regularly sit every Sunday. The previous Monday an email was sent out to the members of Trinity UMC asking for them to select a family photo to be set up in the sanctuary.
Buddy Smith spent the week putting together stands to hold the photos and make them visible above the pews as other members coordinated the efforts to collect the photos while taking every possible precaution.
“We’re just trying to give back to Brother Steve and what he’s been doing for the whole congregation,” said Sandy Pyles, a member of the church who was out setting up Saturday night. “He’s trying to keep everybody up so we’re trying to lift his spirits”
The effort was spearheaded by Julie Kaywood and Karen Pescosolido, Brother Steve’s daughter and wife, both of whom stayed in Saturday evening.
“Brother Steve loves us so well and we want to show him that love back,” said Sandy Wilson, another member of the church who was out for Brother Steve along with her husband, Rick, Sandy Pyles, and Danny Pyles, Ashton Fudge, and Wes Irvin. The crew worked behind masks and across aisles checking and re-checking the layout of the photos to give the most accurate recreation they could.
“I’m really appreciative to the people of the church who pulled this off,” Brother Steve Pescolido said. “I was oblivious. I usually pick up clues pretty good, but they got me on that one.”
The next morning when he and his wife Karen arrived at Trinity UMC, she had a blindfold for him. “My wife walked me into the sanctuary blindfolded, which she’s never done before, and walked me down front,” Brother Steve said.
“She takes me all the way down to the front and aims me as if I’m looking at the congregation, she takes the blindfold off and there’s all the pictures of the church folks and it was just marvelous.
“People we know, love, and serve the Lord with for 10 years now. And it was wonderful and gave such encouragement. The message of the day was ‘What our Hearts Long For’ and our hearts are longing for peace which is an inner wholeness.”
As the weeks become months, all these acts of kindness and connectedness are coming to mean more and more to people everywhere. “Some Sundays you come in and you’re kind of pressed down,” Brother Steve said, “there’s kind of an overarching anxiety cloud hanging down over our whole country, understandably. But even in that, through that and overcoming that the Holy Spirit will help the message go through and help me as a preacher and I hope those who heard it will give the message their time.”
Brother Steve added, “Yes we’re sheltered in, we’re shut in, we’re afraid of something we can’t see much like the Disciples were when Jesus came in the upper room and said, ‘Peace to you.’ He wasn’t telling them to relax, he was actually imparting a spiritual power of peace. I feel like that’s what He gave to me and to the people watching and it was a wonderful Sunday morning and the whole day was a really uplifting day.”
Trinity UMC has been without in-person services since March 15 when their bishop and Governor Beshear asked churches close to in-person services. The church already had an hour-long slot on DuoCounty television for broadcasting of their services, but with the immediate need to move online they had to make the move to livestreaming.
“My concern [with the livestream] was confidentiality,” Brother Steve said. Whereas the weekly broadcast on DuoCounty was edited before broadcast to keep the personal experiences of the churchgoers safely within the confines of the sanctuary. “I didn’t want it to bother anybody worshipping or anybody praying at the altar so I steered clear of it. But then on March 15 all of a sudden we’re livestreaming.” Trinity UMC will continue with their livestream going forward even after people can gather together in person, but with specific limitations to preserve the confidentiality of the people at worship.
“If we can keep the camera aimed at the speaker, at the band, at the cross I’m good. As long as it doesn’t dip down to the altar or go to the people when they’re worshiping, we’re going to continue it from here on out.”
Apart from their livestream, Trinity UMC is also using their Facebook to circulate a prayer list for people working on the front lines of this pandemic. The list started within the church with members there that were nurses, and then it expanded out to doctors and other health professionals, pharmacists, first responders and as the list grew in scope, it grew in scale, taking in people from outside the church into the broader community.
“Our nurses and our doctors are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients that is a concern for everyone and a prayer concern for everyone and a very legitimate worry.” If you or someone you know is a frontline worker and you would like their name added to the list, Trinity UMC is more than willing to add them on.
On Wednesday nights the church still holds Bible study online, and their outreach continues beyond that. Providing food, money, and support for meals programs as well as contributing to feeding area schoolchildren over spring break when the schools were unable to feed them.
“Five or six churches piled in some money, and I didn’t get to pack it, but Brother Randy Johnson from Columbia Baptist did and they put together some really good food boxes. The churches coming together were able to raise enough to get the kids some really good food.”
Trinity’s location on Highway 55 makes it less than ideal for them to directly operate feeding programs for the community, so they are making use of their other resources to provide aid. “We partner with J.O.Y Ministries, they know a lot of folks, so we give to them to get help out to Adair County folks,” Brother Steve said. “We love to work with other churches to help people.”
When asked if he had any message to impart to the people of Adair County Brother Steve said: “There is one source of real help that is the only savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and in His spirit and in His church. There is financial help, there is mental health help, there is emotional help, there is medical health and these things are all good and a lot of them are very appropriate, but the thing that holds them all together is the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus Himself, in our hearts and helping us with the anxiety and the unknowns and the what-ifs. I would offer Him to anyone who reads the article through any church in Adair County.”