Religion News: Crozet Churches Find Creative Ways to Worship

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Pastor Todd Johnson welcomes Hope Presbyterian members from five families who participated in outdoor services in Crozet Park, while others watched on Zoom. Submitted photo.

Just because a church doesn’t have a permanent bricks-and-mortar home doesn’t mean it can’t fulfill all the functions of a church. In fact, some local pastors have found there’s a certain freedom in being able to choose how and where to worship.

Blake Johnson, the pastor of Holy Cross Anglican Church, acknowledges that it was an unconventional decision to rent the spacious new building at Pro Re Nata for Sunday services. “Some of our parishioners are patrons of the brewery, and some have friends there,” he said, “so we’ve been planning since last fall to hold services there, and they’ve been great to work with.” 

The fledgling church has been meeting in Crozet since 2017, first in the barn at Fidelis Greens, and then in the afternoon at Crozet Baptist Church. Johnson said he loved his church’s collaboration with the Baptists, but wanted to move to a morning service and stay in the heart of Crozet. The plan was to start services in March at Pro Re Nata, he said, but the pandemic intervened and, like other area churches, his congregation gathered online. 

Holy Cross Church members worship by family groups at Pro Re Nata. Photo: Jan Harrison.

June 7 was the first service in the brewery’s massive structure. Congregants registered in advance and, arriving at the church, found the seating plan. “It’s a fantastic space,” Johnson said, “and a beautiful location.” 

The young church is still growing, and Johnson said he encouraged people to bring their neighbors and friends, so long as they go through the registration process. And the creative approach to worship doesn’t stop with the choice of location: communion is distributed with the help of ushers, who escort people at a safe distance to have the bread put in their hands. Those wanting a drop of communion wine bring their own glasses and cups from home to receive the consecrated wine straight from the chalice. “Some people bring wine glasses,” Johnson said. 

The people of Holy Cross have weathered the pandemic lockdown fairly well, although some families have had economic consequences, Johnson said. Others have valued time at home with their children. Even so, “It’s been a relief for some of them to meet in person,” he said, “not only to interact socially, but also spiritually.” The church has tried to maintain closeness between its members on a daily level, with both morning and evening prayers.

The question, Johnson said, is “how do we take the virus seriously while also taking our mission as a church seriously, meanwhile keeping everyone as safe as possible?” The church leadership is finding there may be more than one answer. Besides the 10 a.m. service at Pro Re Nata, there’s an 11:30 service on the grounds of Fidelis Greens that’s completely outdoors. Those sheltering in place can still participate online. For more information, to find a space in any of the services, or to reach Johnson, go to www.holycross.org.

Other churches, too, are finding there may be multiple ways to serve their members. Before the pandemic, Hope Presbyterian Church met at Crozet Elementary School for Sunday services. Pastor Todd Johnson said that meeting online through Zoom has worked out very well for the church.  In fact, he says, there are several ways in which this way of worship has truly engaged people. One way has been extending hospitality, welcoming the outsider, which Christians value, he said, “but we often do a poor job of it. However, via Zoom worship, we are able to spotlight different speakers and houses and we are all basically ‘welcomed into’ one another’s homes. It has been beautiful!” 

But isolation from other people can be a burden, just as an uncertain economic future can be. “Of course, the odd thing about our current situation is that loving people well during this time often means staying away from them,” he said. The church has always tried to support the school that has offered them space and continues this ministry by donating supplies to Crozet Elementary for families having a tough time.

Hope Presbyterian held an outdoor Sunday service in June at Crozet Park with only a few families, while continuing to stream to those who must stay at home and participate via Zoom. Johnson hopes this will be a way forward for now. “Given that we are a new church without a building, we are having location challenges, but we are pursuing many avenues,” he said. 

He’s open to any of those avenues that promote community. “If outdoor worship doesn’t work, the church will encourage ‘worship participation gatherings,’” he said, where a household might have one or two other households over on their back porch at 10 a.m. to worship together over Zoom.

Volunteers load pre-packaged groceries for clients of Crozet UMC Grace Grocery. Submitted photo.

Small Blessings

Some churches that are physically open now ask the faithful to register in advance to make sure there are no crowds, and continue with online worship for those who do not want to venture out. Please note that Phase III began on July 1, shortly before the Gazette’s publication date, easing restrictions on churches, so please find up-to-date information from individual churches.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Crozet’s Catholic Community, celebrates Sunday Mass in the sanctuary of Crozet Baptist Church at 1:30 every Sunday, with communion taken afterwards to the homes of those who are healthy but unable to attend. Register at incarnationparish.org. Crozet Baptist Church holds services at 10:30 each Sunday and asks that those coming register in advance at crozetchurch.org.  The church maintains a collection box for non-perishable food items and has conducted several successful food drives.

As of late June, Tabor Presbyterian Church was offering services online only, as was Crozet United Methodist Church. The UMC continues to serve its Grace Grocery clientele at curbside on Mondays to anyone in need of food, with no financial information required. Although Grace Grocery can’t accept food donations, organizers welcome financial donations to support the increased needs of the pantry.

In Ivy, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church continues with its Sunday services on YouTube only, and has added the 5:30 p.m. Celtic Eucharist on second Sundays. Mount Calvary Church also offers a Facebook service only. St. Paul’s Anglican Church has an abbreviated service offering Holy Communion to 25 people at a time, all registering in advance, as well as a virtual worship service. 

In Greenwood, Lebanon Presbyterian Church is open and has arranged seating for physical distancing, Emanuel Episcopal Church offers online worship only, and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church requires registration, masks and social distancing. 

The Monacan Trail Cooperative Parish, which includes the Batesville, Mt. Olivet and Trinity United Methodist Churches, has been online only, streaming services from the sanctuary of each of the three churches. 

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