Creative caring: Parishioners support each other from a distance

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FORTVILLE — At first, Phil Edwards wasn’t sure what to do.

As a pastor, he wanted to comfort the man who’d called him after a family member tested positive for COVID-19. But amid social distancing guidelines, he couldn’t just show up at a hospital or the man’s living room.

He and his wife, Sara, drove to the man’s driveway and called him. Remaining in their car, they prayed with him over the phone.

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Amid keeping a distance and limiting the size of gatherings, people of faith are finding ways to support each other spiritually when “being there” for someone can’t include actually being there.

From that driveway prayer time, the Edwards began to visit other driveways of their congregation at Fortville Church of the Nazarene to call those inside and pray with them.

“We have worked our way through the church directory … almost there,” the pastor said. “They have received that so well. We have had a really good time of just reaching out to them.”

There are other examples of creative support among Hancock County churches: a congregation gathering in solidarity in its church parking lot when their pastor’s wife died. Bible study groups meeting via Zoom. A pastor leading a prayer meeting on Facebook live, his wife handing him a list of prayer requests she wrote down from the comments.

In Fortville, a few neighbors were spaced but nevertheless came together outdoors on Easter. They came from different churches, but with those churches closed they celebrated the resurrection together. One person read a Bible passage, another sang a solo, another spoke about the Gospel of John.

In New Palestine, the congregation at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church has been coming together online for worship. Even handbell choirs and other ensembles are made possible when musicians each record their parts at home, “all recorded separately and assembled by editors with skills I didn’t even know they had!” the Rev. Mark Havel wrote in an email.

Havel has also asked people to respond to a few questions about how they are experiencing the pandemic and social distancing. He shares their responses in emails titled “Keeping the Faith, Keeping Our Distance” that are sent on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“It’s been a really cool way to hear from each other, learn about people others have never met, and connect names and faces,” Havel wrote. “They are talking about their work, what they do for fun in all of this, a Bible passage that matters for them, etc.”

In Greenfield, Calvary Baptist Church has been forming online Bible studies and also “chat groups” at various ages. Some members have picked up food and essential supplies for some of the older members of the congregation who need not be going out, Carla Carter wrote in an email.

In a way, communication has perhaps even improved during this season, Carter wrote.

“More of an effort is made to stay in touch because we can’t take meeting together for granted to stay connected.”