Dallas County, having the highest reported number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas, found itself at the forefront in conversations about Texas’ coronavirus response. But even while others argued as to the merits of placing stricter prohibitions on social gatherings and business operations, Dallas County churches mobilized.
The following churches are a sampling of those which, deprived of the freedom to congregate, are supporting their congregations and the community in creative ways and demonstrating the power of a loving community united by common values.
Park Cities Presbyterian
Jeff Barber, Executive Director of Park Cities Presbyterian, said their pastors are using this time to make phone calls, establishing contact with every member of the church. Meanwhile, deacons are mobilizing to provide ways for members of the church and the community to reach out to get help picking up groceries or prescriptions, or meeting other needs.
One member of the congregation, who owns a company which produces signs, created a cross to place in his yard with the words “Fear Not” printed across it. Barber said the member is now producing signs for community members who wish to place them in their yards as well.
Barber noted that even while honoring city and county directives, PCPC is encouraging its small groups to connect via Zoom, FaceTime, or any other online tool at their disposal.
“We are grateful to have the technology available to us that allows us to stream our worship services to our congregation and others. We are making plans to stream our Holy Week services including our noon service each day and our Maundy Thursday evening service,” Barber stated.
Those who wish to tune into these services can find them aired here.
Highland Park United Methodist
Highland Park United Methodist is using designated funds donated by its congregation to deliver 1,200 lunches a day to local shelters. By hiring out-of-work caterers to make the meals, the church is also simultaneously providing jobs during a challenging time for the industry.
“What we wanted to do is find the most vulnerable pockets where people weren’t eating and try to deliver into that, and then we thought to expand it and keep people employed in addition to feeding people, so we created a works project initiative,” explained Senior Minister of Highland Park United Methodist Church, Paul Rasmussen, speaking to local news.
The church hopes to expand this project to deliver 2,000 meals a day, but they are waiting on additional funding. Members of the church or community who would like to donate can do so here, designating their gift to “Coronavirus Relief.”
“While we are all ‘pulling in’ to care for ourselves and our families,” members are reminded on the church website, “kindness, connection, and compassion have not been canceled.”
The HPUMC Disaster Relief fund, which goes directly to individuals affected as well as to partner agencies engaged in direct relief, has already raised more than $125,000 for this purpose.
Watermark Community Church
Watermark encourages its members to keep their focus outward as well. Daily email and social media reminders deliver encouragement and present opportunities for members to reach out to their community.
One such opportunity is on the front line of medical response to COVID-19, and the infrastructure and medical relationships have been in place for years.
Christy Chermak, Executive Director of Watermark Health, manages two urgent care clinics that Watermark operates in Dallas and Plano. Set up and uniquely positioned to serve the uninsured and financially vulnerable, Watermark urgent care clinics also alleviate the burden patients place on the system when they rely on emergency rooms for basic medical care.
Chermak told The Texan that Watermark Health has been monitoring COVID-19 for the past several months and have had time to update the clinics’ practices to address the unique challenges the virus presents.
One method they use to address the high risk of infection is to decrease risk by seeing patients outdoors. The clinic has also been able to release healthcare volunteers at greatest risk for a serious outcome from COVID-19 from their obligation to serve.
Chermak says the support of the Watermark community for the healthcare volunteers who serve at the clinic has been incredible.
“I haven’t had to cook food or prepare dinner in a week and a half,” she stated. Members of the church can sign up to bring meals to volunteers as well as donate items for patients and healthcare workers.
Chermak said they have seen a huge outpouring of donated items, including children’s entertainment items for those who remain at home, snacks and hygiene items, along with donations of n-95 face masks and face shields for healthcare workers.
“And we’ve promised that if we get an abundance of resources,” Chermak stated, “we don’t just sit on that.” The clinic donates extra supplies to emergency room services and other locations with which it already has relationships through its healthcare volunteers.
Chermak made the point, “There’s a reality that we’re the only way the church can corporately see people face to face right now, and we’re not taking that lightly.”
Cathedral Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe
In a news conference on March 13, Bishop Edward J. Burns announced the suspension of all public masses in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas until March 30. “These are, without a doubt, extraordinary days, and they necessitate extraordinary measures,” he said. “The leaders of our community have sounded the alarm, and now this shepherd is going to protect his flock.”
“In the Catholic tradition,” Bishop Burns stated, “we always identify the family as the domestic church. It is in the family that parents hand on the faith to the next generation. I want families to use these days to come together in prayer.”
He continued, “We recognize that good can come out of adversity. Hopefully our families will grow stronger and be intentional about charting a course of action to assure that they grow stronger in faith and in their relationship with Jesus Christ.”
On March 14, Bishop Burns offered a clarification of his decree, releasing Catholics of the Diocese of Dallas from the obligation to attend Mass until March 30 and further clarified that Catholics are under no obligation to travel to other dioceses in order to attend Mass.
The Cathedral offers a live stream of Mass in English and Spanish, which can be found on Cathedral Guadalupe’s media channel.
On their website, Cathedral Guadalupe announced that in observation of the Dallas County order to shelter in place, the cathedral and all church offices are closed until Friday, April 3 at midnight. Confessions and baptisms are suspended until that date as well.
First Baptist Dallas
Nate Curtis, Minister of Communications and Broadcast at First Baptist Dallas, spoke with The Texan and highlighted the importance the church places on maintaining an upbeat message to counter the negativity currently bombarding the public. “We’re trying to be as fun and joyful as possible during this time,” he said, referencing a video the church put out of Pastor Robert Jeffress playing the accordion reminding viewers to rejoice.
While their iCampus services have been offered online since Easter of 2016, Curtis said that they have seen a jump in viewership in recent weeks. The church has seen 200,000 viewers tune in to watch the Sunday morning service online.
The church is also rapidly moving Bible studies and children’s services online as well, with the Wednesday Night Bible Study offered over Zoom for the first time last week.
Absent bulletins and church announcements, church members are able to keep up with services offered and unique ways their church is bringing joy to the community by signing up for First Baptist Dallas’ email list, found here.
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Charity Nicholson graduated from the Honors Academy at Howard Payne University where she double-majored in Political Science and Communication. After working in various state political campaigns and as Director of Constituent Services for Senator Konni Burton, she began working full-time as a mother to two toddlers. When not chasing after tiny humans, Charity enjoys exploring National Parks with her family, reading historical non-fiction, and listening to true-crime podcasts.