Asbury UMC finds new ways to minister during pandemic

HOOVER – The COVID-19 pandemic has forced local churches to forgo typical services but has not stopped them from worshipping or serving their communities.

Many churches are streaming services online so worshippers can watch in the comfort of their own home—and well away from others.

“We may not be there, but everything we normally do we are still doing in some capacity,” said Amy Gonzalez with Asbury United Methodist Church.

Asbury offers several examples of what can still be done in lieu of gathering together as a church family. In addition to streaming services, the church sends out a daily text with a Bible verse and prayer.

In fact, all of Asbury’s ministries—children, youth and adult—are offering online content. And members have access to Amplify, an online video library.

“It’s essentially Netflix for faith,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone at church has an access code, and folks go online anytime and watch them for free.”

The Anchor Community Respite Ministry is posting a series of informational videos covering topics such as beekeeping and giving out activity packets for people that can drive by and pick them up.

Church members are also serving as pen pals for people involved with Anchor and others in the church who do not use technology and might not be getting calls and texts like others.

Asbury’s food pantry remains open from 2-3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, but using a drive-through method.

Groceries and other essentials are pre-bagged.

“People drive up, and we give them a bag and a smile and tell them we’ll see them next week,” Gonzalez said.

On Saturdays and Sundays, a group from the church is preparing sandwiches for homeless people in Birmingham. With many restaurants closed that normally share their surplus with the homeless population, a vulnerable demographic needs the extra help.

At the church website, AsburyOnline.com, links have been added for volunteer recruitment and for those who need help to let the church know.

Help could include providing groceries, prayer or paying a visit—even if for only a few minutes and the visitor stays 10 feet away.

Asbury UMC, like other local churches, is settling into a routine of online worship that will last an indefinite amount of time, even possibly through Easter.

Last week, 2,600 people tuned in at 11 a.m. for the worship service that combines elements of Asbury’s traditional and contemporary services, even bringing together three different pastors.

“Even though we’re not sitting in the same place, we’re still together,” Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can to keep the faith.”