There will be no services at Conway's Christ the Servant Lutheran Church for the rest of March.
At least not in the traditional sense.
Like many churches throughout the country, Christ the Servant Lutheran suspended in-person Sunday worship amid concerns about the coronavirus. But the church has streaming capabilities and church leaders are exploring the option of a video service, said the Rev. Henry Corcoran. Of course, that poses its own challenge: there's no interaction with the congregation.
"It's a relational thing for me," Corcoran said. "It's really difficult to preach without people."
Throughout the Grand Strand, the faith community is approaching the challenge of the virus in different ways. Many are heeding the advice of health officials and avoiding large gatherings. And yet, particularly in a time of uncertainty, there's still a desire to connect with other parishioners.
At Beach Church, lead pastor Todd Elliott said services will be streamed online indefinitely instead of having meetings at 557 George Bishop Parkway in Myrtle Beach.
“I don’t want to put a time limit on it because it can change,” he said. “But for the foreseeable future, we will have as normal a church service as possible live at 9:30 Sunday mornings and on demand after that.”
Elliott stressed that the church will not have groups on campus, including youth ministries and Celebrate Recovery, although the church leadership is exploring online options for those meetings as well.
Grand Strand Baptist Church in Carolina Forest will not meet as a congregation in its building at 350 Hospitality Lane, but will stream services online.
“Until this think is lifted, our focus will be the people at home," pastor Freddie Young said. “They will be able to request prayer and ask questions. We will send the answer back to them, and we will make this as personal as possible.”
Young said because of a good communication system already in place, church members are able to communicate with leadership and each other “almost instantaneously through social media, emails and a phone system."
“Communication is not the challenge," he said. "The challenge is to make sure we don’t have people in the wrong environment.”
Temple Emanu-EL closed its building on 65th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach to the public and suspended all services on Wednesday.
“We know this poses hardships on all of us, but we feel confident that this is the right step to take in order to keep our community safe,” Rabbi Avi Perets said in a prepared statement.
All religious services and educational classes are canceled, and funerals will be held as graveside services only. Congregants are encouraged to take advantage of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Face Time, WhatsApp or the telephone.
Temple Shalom on Belle Terre Boulevard is closed through April 18, past-president Lily Ann Revitch said.
It will be determined then if the synagogue will re-open at that time.
“That includes the Passover seder and all services and activities,” Revitch said about the cancellations.
Revitch said it is likely streaming may begin within a couple of weeks.
But not all places of worship are clearing their buildings.
Myrtle Beach Christian Church will continue holding services in its sanctuary on Burcale Road.
“We’re just telling people to use their judgment,” pastor Dan Banks said.
“People know their situations and if they feel like they need to stay home, we livestream anyway and we’re on TV on a one-week delay,” he said.
Banks said there were a few people who weren’t at the Sunday services, but overall “there was a very good attendance."
“I hadn’t preached 15 minutes when we just let people get on their knees and pray,” he said.
For some churches, the downside of streaming is that it takes away an integral part of worship — interacting with other believers.
At Langston Baptist Church in Conway, there will be live streaming services instead of meeting physically “at least for the next couple of weeks, and maybe longer,” associate pastor Jonathan Gardner said.
“We are proactively contacting families because we don’t want to lose that personal touch,” he said. “This is a hard time for churches because we love that interaction on Sundays, and we are encouraging our people to stay in touch with each other.”