The Transylvania Times -

By Matt McGregor
Staff Writer 

Church Congregations Adjust To Virus Restrictions-Brevard NC


Last updated 3/30/2020 at 4:32pm

Anchor Baptist is continuing the good work it has been doing for years.

Despite the quarantined congregations, local churches persist in faith and deed within the belly of the coronavirus whale now that it has arrived in Transylvania County.

While some churches wait for needs to arise, or to join a larger, pre-established effort to help, Anchor Baptist Church in Pisgah Forest is continuing its 30 years of disaster relief assistance, beginning with Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and, now, it prepares for what may come.

"We've activated our disaster team," said Pastor Randy Barton. "We have food trailers that we get and have on stand by should there be a need for a mass-feeding situation. It hasn't been implemented yet, but it may be that later on, if this thing continues, we may end up doing hot meals and have a drive-through for people to pick up meals."

The church is continuing with its "The Emergency Good Assistance Program" (TFAP) by distributing to those in need, but it's now become a drive-through.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has waived the signature requirement, so they don't have to handle the pen," Barton said. "We just put an 'X' in the box and the folks that meet the federal guidelines can come pick that up. As we always have, we give them produce to go with it."

The TFAP pickup hours are 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

The church is working with the Transylvania County School system and its Backpack Buddies program to gather supplies for kids who now won't be going back to school until May 15.

Emergency food boxes are coming through MANNA Foodbank in Asheville, a longtime collaborator with Anchor.

"We've closed our building, and all staff have to get their temperature taken and log it in before coming in," Barton said. "We are considering, if the weather cooperates, on doing a drive-in service for Easter, if we are still in this by then."

The church is also using its out-of-school college students to run errands and pick up groceries for the elderly.

One of the problems, he said, is trying to get food.

"We contacted Sam's (Club) and they are completely sold out of hamburger, and a lot of other things, so trying to buy the product to prepare to serve is the hardest part right now, and that's hard to imagine," Barton said. "And that's nationwide. They've even stopped doing online ordering."

He said the situation "is bad."

"We have a preacher from Pakistan who came here in January, and I'm trying to get him back, but his country is requiring a COVID-19 test performed 24 hours before he leaves," Barton said. "He has no symptoms, not sick, never been exposed, and I can't even find a test for him, so his country won't allow him back until I get him tested. I've spoken with several medical providers and the Pakistan Embassy, and no one has given me any answers."

In India, he said, people are literally starving after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day lockdown last Tuesday, with no relief provided from their government.

"Churches have started calling from around the world, and so we've began allocating money, and we were able to get $1,500 in India," Barton said.

"We bought $10,000 pounds of rice this morning," he said. "I found a rise today for 3 kilos for 64 rupees, so that's roughly a dollar for three kilos, which is 2.2 pounds. So, that's about 6.6 pounds for a dollar in India. We are paying a higher price in the Philippines, where rice is about 50 pesos for a kilo, which is basically about 50 cents a pound."

The church has a missionary in Bolivia, he said, where only one person can leave his or her house from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., but that person has to walk to the store, because there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the streets.

"It's 'Marshall law' down there, with military in the streets," he said.

Normally, he said, in a disaster situation, there are parts of the country in good shape and can provide help and sanctuary.

"But this is worldwide, so who do you call upon?" he said. "Everyone is feeling the same pressure. They've locked down South America to the point where there is no work and the government is not giving anything to any body, so it's just fend for yourself. I don't know how much longer they can do this, but when people get hungry, there will be civil unrest."

Online Services

Congregations across the world are staying home and watching online.

For some churches, this has been new technology to learn, but for Anchor Baptist, which has had a radio show – – and live broadcast for years, the only new development are the six additional online services a week at 7 p.m., with various area preachers to "fill in the gap for people who may be missing services." Normal Sunday services are live on Facebook, AM 720, FM 94.9, and online at 11 a.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday.

Barton is offering instructions to any pastors who would want to broadcast their service.

"Amazingly, attendance has picked up," he said. "We don't run that many on Sundays as far as attendance, but last weekend we had up to 600 views on Sunday morning, and then I believe it went up to 900 Sunday night. On a regular basis we'd have around 125 people in church."


Community Church

Brevard Community Church (BCC) on Morris Road continues with its online services as it has for three years on Facebook every Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

To communicate needs, Communications Director Mary Studt said the church partners with local community organizations to "serve the community in the midst of COVID-19 and beyond."

"This group will allow us to combine our efforts, and communicate consistently and effectively to provide ongoing opportunities in our community to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us," Studt said. "We have the opportunity to make a big difference to our neighbors."

To join this group, sign up at http://www.brevard

"That's how we are funneling our people, so that we aren't doing the same thing someone else is doing," she said. "It's putting all our efforts toward people and groups that already have a good way to accomplish what is best for our community."

Care coaching is another program offered by BCC.

"We provide the opportunity for one-on-one conversations and prayer with mentors who will listen, encourage and guide you through emotional, spiritual and/or physical needs you may be experiencing," Studt said.

To receive care coaching, submit a request at http://www.Brevard

"That's something we have always had and always offer," she said. "It will just look a little different in how we meet with people now."

NEXT Church

Pastor David Blackburn at NEXT Church on Gallimore Road at the Boys & Girls Club said NEXT doesn't have the equipment for live stream, so they are pre-recording short teachings.

"Many people are overwhelmed, and it's hard to know how to meet those needs appropriately right now," he said. "Since we meet at the Boys & Girls Club, one of the things we are hoping to do is to team up with them and see if there are any families with elderly parents that need to have groceries picked up for them.

"It's just whatever we can do, just to lend a hand, but I'd rather hook up with organizations that are already doing something and are looking for more people, and we can just step in."

First Baptist Church

At First Baptist Church on Gaston Street in Brevard, a drive-in prayer meeting has been implemented at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, during which people can sit in their cars and have a prayer meeting as the pastor is on the steps of the church.

The church's virtual meeting is at 11 a.m. and can be viewed on Facebook.

Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County

At Unitarian Univer-salists of Transylvania County (UU) on Varsity Street, the Rev. Sally Beth Shore said UU has moved its public events – Sunday services and Wednesday Lenten Lunch – on to Facebook Live stream.

"Obviously, we are having to make some adaptations," she said. "It's not just that we are videoing the service, it's that no one else, save the camera operator, is in the room. So, (there are) no hymns, and very limited music, if at all. Other elements done by other people in the congregation are skipped, or I do them. With the Facebook streaming, I've learned that it feels meaningful for people to say they are online just so others know."

She said several members are now a part of the UU COVID Response Team that has become the hub of keeping their isolated church members connected by offering help, where they can, assisting with technology, creating online groups and relaying volunteer opportunities to participants.

"Our Lenten Practice this year, which began on Feb. 26, has been the 21-Day 'No Complaints Challenge,'" she said. "I send out a daily messages to 400 people on our mailing encourage them in their practice to not complain – in whatever way that means to them. When I contemplated stopping this in the face of coronavirus, I learned that for many this has become even more important, as it is helping them to be mindful in how they deal with the stress of this disruption."

Shore said, despite all this, she still sees an "opportunity for connection."

"We really are appreciating one another more already, as well as the simple things we might have taken for granted just a few weeks ago, like a leisurely stroll through the grocery store squeezing the produce," she said.


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