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Using creativity to keep the faith

Joe Potter loads a sack of groceries into a car during the church's "drive-thru food pantry" on Tuesday at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]
Joe Potter loads a sack of groceries into a car during the church's "drive-thru food pantry" on Tuesday at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

Houses of worship and religious leaders are coming up with creative ways to connect with each other and their surrounding communities in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

The creativity and talent-sharing comes as faith communities across the metro practice social distancing by suspending in-person worship services and other gatherings.

Here are some of the ways people are keeping the faith.

Drive-thru food pantry

A transformation was made to the food pantry at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Rev. Doug Melton, the church's senior pastor, said the weekly food distribution was made into a drive-thru food pantry to keep volunteers and the families receiving food safe. He said the first drive-thru effort was done on March 17 and it was so successful that the church did it again on Tuesday, giving away 100 bags of groceries.

"When someone pulls up, we give them a bag of groceries, we ask if we can pray for them. We're looking for ways to share the gospel with them as well," Melton said.

Meals in motion

Meals on Wheels Oklahoma City asked for volunteers' help and they delivered — literally.

Meals on Wheels-OKC is a program of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church's food ministry called Ending Hunger OKC, which coordinates 59 churches and organizations that prepare and deliver meals to home-bound seniors.

Meals on Wheels-OKC and St. Luke's partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Greater Oklahoma City to put together 875 "pantry packs." They asked volunteers from the community to show up at St. Luke's, 222 NW 15, to get some of the boxes of food to deliver them to home-bound older adults who are current participants in the Meals On Wheels of OKC program.

Beth Armstrong, a spokeswoman for St. Luke's, said volunteers showed up in their cars and the pantry packs of canned vegetables, meats, cereal, pasta and other food items were places in their vehicles to be delivered to people who were anticipating this special delivery.

Armstrong said it only took about two hours for volunteers to pick up all of the boxes of food and head out into the community.

Picture worthy

Members of Temple B'nai Israel have embraced their house of worship's new virtual Shabbat services.

Adri Johnson, of Edmond, a member of the temple's executive board, has been assisting with social media and helped set up a livestreaming feed of Shabbat (Sabbath) on Friday evenings. Johnson is, perhaps, the perfect person to be part of this effort because she works in the information technology division at the University of Central Oklahoma, helping to train people on campus on how to best use technology.

Johnson said temple members have been encouraged to keep candles close to their computers or other devices that help them connect to the livestreaming Shabbat services. She was gratified to see pictures posted on Facebook showing people placing their kiddish cup (special glass or goblet specifically used to hold the wine drunk during the blessing at the beginning of Shabbat) and candles next to their devices for use during the appropriate moment in the service led by the Rev. Vered Harris, the temple's spiritual leader.

"We still know we're together," Johnson said.

Shabbat and Jewish holiday meals begin with a blessing over a cup of wine. Many families have a special glass or goblet specifically for the purpose, often an heirloom that has been passed down through the generations, but any cup can function as a Kiddush cup if necessary. Either wine or grape juice may be used for this blessing, and some families stand for Kiddush, while others sit.

Friendly faces

The Rev. Todd Fisher showed his sense of humor with a recent tweet about his staff helping him with his initial efforts of preaching to an empty sanctuary.

Fisher, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, said his staff tried to help him as he videotaped a sermon to be shown online after his church suspended in-person worship services.

"About to record the worship service for Sunday AM broadcast. I mentioned to some of our team how awkward it's going to be to preach to an empty room. Looks like they helped me," Fisher wrote.

His March 18 tweet included a picture of Immanuel's sanctuary but the room was hardly empty. Staff members had set up a cut-out of theologian Martin Luther and cut-outs of a few well-known fictional pop culture characters, including Marvel Comics' superhero Thor; Yoda, the Star Wars guru of The Force; and Elsa from the Disney's animated hit film series "Frozen."

Elsa held up a sign with a fitting slogan: "Corona never bothered me anyway."

All together now

The Rev. Chris Shorow and his staff at First Christian Church of Edmond (Disciples of Christ) brainstormed ways to make the church's online worship services interactive.

He said they try to have a virtual blessing of the peace, a time when members are encouraged to type in their greetings to one another so that they scroll on the screen.

They also found another way to virtually connect with some help from families in the congregation.

Families were invited to video themselves saying one line of the Lord's Prayer and send the video to church staff. The recordings are put together and shown during the church's online service.

"It's interactive. We splice all those together and it's kind of neat. It ends up being 10 different families saying the Lord's Prayer," Shorow said. "I think it has kept them engaged and given them a sense of community and hope. Isolation can kind of drive people apart. Community and hope can bring us all together."

Mobile Mass

The Rev. Stephen Hamilton's "drive-up Mass" at St. Monica Catholic Church proved to be a popular event.

His parishioners filled the Edmond church's parking lot to see and hear the outdoor Mass Hamilton devised because they couldn't celebrate Mass in typical fashion.

Hamilton captured his church members' interest right away by acknowledging the unusual nature of the event with solemn words.

However, he also added a levity.

Parishioners sat in their cars and the priest asked them to turn on their windshield wipers to show him that they could hear him through their radios, via audio technology set up for the special service.

Right after that the priest asked each family to designate one person in the car to act as the "reporter" for the Mass.

Hamilton asked these reporters to write down the names of anyone in the vehicle who turned down the radio volume during his homily.

Lots of laughter could be heard throughout the parking lot.

Related Photos
<strong>A sign for a "drive-thru food pantry" is pictured at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

A sign for a "drive-thru food pantry" is pictured at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-16d323a3351411a3ac29140db2215ee3.jpg" alt="Photo - A sign for a "drive-thru food pantry" is pictured at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" A sign for a "drive-thru food pantry" is pictured at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> A sign for a "drive-thru food pantry" is pictured at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-29a5f6aa2044e678d2213f088d24e5bf.jpg" alt="Photo - Volunteers at St. Luke's United Methodist Church prepare to give community members "pantry packs" on Wednesday to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] " title=" Volunteers at St. Luke's United Methodist Church prepare to give community members "pantry packs" on Wednesday to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Volunteers at St. Luke's United Methodist Church prepare to give community members "pantry packs" on Wednesday to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8662ccc7241f8e7d96636a05b76af009.jpg" alt="Photo - A line of cars is shown in a parking lot of St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Wednesday as volunteers get "pantry packs" to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] " title=" A line of cars is shown in a parking lot of St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Wednesday as volunteers get "pantry packs" to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> A line of cars is shown in a parking lot of St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Wednesday as volunteers get "pantry packs" to deliver to Meals on Wheels OKC recipients. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-92f903d1734ec14898473a360548690c.jpg" alt="Photo - Lighted Shabbat candles sit next to a computer while a member of Temple B'nai Israel watches a livestreamed Shabbat service led by the temple's spiritual leader Rabbi Vered Harris. [Photo provided] " title=" Lighted Shabbat candles sit next to a computer while a member of Temple B'nai Israel watches a livestreamed Shabbat service led by the temple's spiritual leader Rabbi Vered Harris. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Lighted Shabbat candles sit next to a computer while a member of Temple B'nai Israel watches a livestreamed Shabbat service led by the temple's spiritual leader Rabbi Vered Harris. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-55fd0006e80ac65e57f9fa39dba49b80.jpg" alt="Photo - Megan Jackson watches "drive-up Mass" on March 22 through a sun roof of a car at St. Monica Catholic Church in Edmond. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Megan Jackson watches "drive-up Mass" on March 22 through a sun roof of a car at St. Monica Catholic Church in Edmond. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Megan Jackson watches "drive-up Mass" on March 22 through a sun roof of a car at St. Monica Catholic Church in Edmond. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ae059288134bb52b040f958e5debb295.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5932c13f0e8548de3ae9a714c8e448b8.jpg" alt="Photo - Sacks of food are pictured during church's "drive-thru food pantry at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title="Sacks of food are pictured during church's "drive-thru food pantry at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Sacks of food are pictured during church's "drive-thru food pantry at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-07fd823a909eabaddb51ce8bfd9933fb.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Potter loads a sack of groceries into a car during the church's "drive-thru food pantry" on Tuesday at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Joe Potter loads a sack of groceries into a car during the church's "drive-thru food pantry" on Tuesday at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Joe Potter loads a sack of groceries into a car during the church's "drive-thru food pantry" on Tuesday at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8601 S Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›

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