PROCESSION: Fr. Joseph Faulkner of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church and an assistant lead a Eucharist procession past a family kneeling in prayer on March 25 on 15th Street in Wahoo. The family includes Melanie Ludvik and her grandchildren, (from left) Maci Miller, Cole Hansen, Dylan Hansen, Taylor Roubichaud, Ryan Hansen and Ellie Miller. (Staff Photo by Suzi Nelson)

CEDAR BLUFFS – Local church-goers have been stripped of their ability to gather for worship by the COVID-19 pandemic. But area churches are bringing the message of hope and love during the Easter season to their members by using new technology or old methods.

Social distancing regulations and limitations on public gatherings imposed by the state have forced churches to get creative to reach their congregations.

Pastor Mark Weber has been at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Cedar Bluffs for 14 years. On March 22, he held his first live-streamed sermon.

“It went very well,” he said.

Weber admitted to being technology-challenged. He said he used his wife’s phone to broadcast the service over Facebook. It was difficult, but he refrained from moving around during the sermon in order to stay in frame.

“Once we figured out how to use it, it was probably the easiest thing to do,” he said.

About 55 people watched, fewer than the 80 the congregation averages per week in attendance. There were three members sitting in the sanctuary as well, spaced well beyond six feet from each other. Those who were not able to view the service live can watch a recorded version.

The pastor said they will continue the livestreamed services through May 6, or whenever the regulation banning public gatherings of more than 10 people is lifted.

That will include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, Weber said. There will be Easter lilies in the background to bring the atmosphere of the season.

This is a difficult season to be separated from others in the congregation, Weber said.

“It’s something we all agree we can’t remember anything like this happening before,” he said. “We are looking forward to that time when we can get together.”

Weber tries to comfort his congregation through this difficult time.

“I tell people to keep reading their devotions, keep praying and to trust that God is going to get them through all of this,” he said.

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Wahoo is also livestreaming daily and weekend masses and recording the services for later viewing, as posted on their website.

The church also came up with a more down-to-earth way to bring their parishioners together in a unique way last week by holding two Eucharist processions.

Father Joseph Faulkner and an assistant walked the streets of Wahoo carrying the monstrance, a vessel that holds the consecrated Eucharist host during adoration. Tables were set up in various locations, and as they approached the assembled worshipers knelt in prayer. Families were generally separated by the suggested six-foot social distancing span.

There were two processions held last week and another is planned for Palm Sunday, April 4. Also on Palm Sunday, stations will be placed around the church for a drive-up palm reception.

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