Changes can be found from grocery stores to restaurants as the coronavirus continues to upend life and society responds.

But churches also have seen their share of changes, and pastors say some of them could be long-lasting.

“Before COVID, we would hold hands, like in prayer time, or we would hug and greet one another in brotherly love or Christian love. I think that’s probably going to cease for the near future…for a lot of churches,” said the Rev. Clifford Jones, pastor of Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church in Opelika.

However because of the use of media and social media, Jones sees an opportunity for churches to reach more people with the Gospel.

“It’s an opportunity for us to reach more people because the numbers that I have tuning in on my livestream of people watching, are not the numbers that show up on Sunday morning,” he said, adding he’s had viewers from 10 to 14 states. “And so I think it’s going to give us an outlet to reach more people.”

The Rev. Sean Rezek, senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika, and the Rev. Dr. Stephen L. Faulk, pastor of Auburn AME Zion Church, agree about the positives aspects of media.

“For a lot of us, we have become a church without walls as we’re using technology to worship and engage people from all over the country and the world. We’re able to even minister better with those who are in nursing homes, those who are homebound, because they’re able to connect with us,” Faulk said.

Though, he does see the loss of “face-to-face interaction” with the church members who have been there every Sunday as a negative: “My congregation is longing to get back.”

Rezek doesn’t believe anyone knows the lasting impact of the coronavirus because things continue to change. However, he knows things will remain different.

“I do know that it will, for some time to come, change the way we worship," Rezek said. "Whether it’s personal greetings: You know, shaking hands. Whether it’s passing the plate, how we take communion. All of those things are things that I think will be changed, possibly permanently, but definitely for some time to come.

“And so the way we do worship, when we do worship, how we do worship…will change,” he said.

He agrees the pandemic has forced churches to think of innovation again.

“One of the things that I think is here to stay is the importance of online worship and virtual worship. We were already doing that, but this pandemic has forced us to take a look at how we were doing it and what we can do different," he said. "So we are taking steps now to be sure that we continue to have a strong online presence because people are connecting virtually now more than ever.”

This information is current as of May 20, 2020 and includes information from more than 70 communities served by Lee newspapers. Please check directly with the place of worship for any change in status or services prior to attending or tuning in.

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