El Paso – Churches across El Paso have had to adapt and become creative during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing prayer assistance on the phone, food drives and online religious services.
Mayor Dee Margo announced a “Stay Home, Work Safe” order on March 24th requiring residents to only venture out for essential tasks including grocery shopping, a medical emergency and caring for family.
“You know we always say in the Catholic faith that the church isn’t the building but the church is all of us together. We are all the church and if we can’t come together, we can’t come together as church,” said Fernie Ceniceros, the Public Information communications director for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.
“We wanted to make it clear to our people that that just because we’ve suspended or we’ve not allowed people to come to the public celebration of Mass – like most other diocese’s in the country – we wanted people to know that we we are celebrating Mass that’s something that’s that we felt was very critical” Ceniceros said.
Although the doors are closed to the public, church members are encouraged to watch virtual Masses via live stream on YouTube, Facebook, and broadcast on television. Channel 7 KVIA airs Masses on Sundays at 7 a.m. in Spanish and 11 a.m. in English.
Shopping and gardens
In order to reach older residents, the Diocese of El Paso plans to launch two new projects. “Vecinos a Vecinos (Neighbors to Neighbors) focuses on assisting the elderly with any grocery shopping or prayer and Victory Gardens encourages people to start a garden at their homes.
“You know, it pains us to have to tell our people, especially our elderly people, we’re asking you to stay home, simply because we want to make sure that you’re alive,” Ceniceros said. “We want to encourage people to plant as a means to give back to the earth but also as a therapeutic means for you to feel like you’ve made something.”
Abundant Living Faith Center, a nondenominational Christian church in El Paso is also promoting social distancing and still reaching people at home.
Through pre-recorded services, dramatic presentations and messages, the church continues to deliver their message through what they call “Church at Home” for the family including messages for children. Abundant Living Faith Center, also offers live services on its Facebook page and website, alfc.com.
“We really encouraged a lot of people to visit the church app because here’s also a lot of fun stuff for kids and we’ve got kids services on there, and they’re doing different activities like challenges at home and stuff,” said Shannon Neiman, the lead pastor of Abundant Living Faith Center.
“ We’ve set up this website, this email address called firstname.lastname@example.org and this has really become our focal point for people to contact us and this is for people that are really struggling,” Neiman said.
Food bank and counseling
Church members are also volunteering to help others in our community.
“We’ve partnered with the El Paso’s El Pasoans Fighting Hunger food bank. and we’re distributing literally thousands and thousands of food boxes at one of our church campuses every week,” Neiman said.
She said the organization is also providing counseling to members through their trained pastoral staff and doing food deliveries for people who can’t leave their house.
“During this time of isolation, we need that community more than ever. We’ve got to reach out to each other. We’ve got to be there for each other. We’ve got to encourage each other. We’ve got to check on each other,” Nieman said.