Fairbanks places of worship cope with social changes during pandemic

Some churches have begun livestreaming their weekly services. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Places of worship in Fairbanks have had to cancel celebrations and reformat services to follow social distancing guidelines in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ryan Gray, Assistant Pastor with Bible Baptist Church, said, “We’re advising all of our members and folks that attend to tune in to the livestream services online, and we’ve had a good response. Folks have been able to view the services and they’re appreciative of the technology that we have, that we can provide that, especially in times like these.”

Other programs at the church have been affected as well. “The Friday night Reformers Unanimous Recover Ministry that we have, we’ve gone to livestream for that as well. Also, our weekly preaching services at Fairbanks Correctional Center have been suspended,” Gray said.
He went on to say, “We love to reach people, and have them under the preaching and teaching of the Bible. And so there’s definitely a void that that leaves when we’re not able to do that personally.”

According to Gray, BBC is considering alternative options for delivering Easter services, including a radio service accessible in a person’s car. “Folks could come in, park in the parking lot, at least be able to remain in their cars and be separate from one another, but still see each other and tune in on their radio to the broadcast.”

“People are troubled in these times, and certainly there’s a lot in the news and statistics that can be frightening,” Gray said. “We want to encourage people to use the extra time that they have at home to spend time with family, enjoy their children, and time at home together that they might not otherwise have.”

Immaculate Conception Church has also felt the effects of the pandemic. Reverend Thomas Kuffel, Pastor at ICC, said his church continues to provide services via Facebook Live, telephone and email.

According to Kuffel, the soup kitchen operating out of the church serves bag lunches seven days a week. Since the outbreak began, he has seen a large increase in the number of bag lunches being distributed. “Usually we’re doing about 10 bag lunches a day, and now it seems to be 20 plus. On the weekends it varies, but usually we’re doing close to 150, more or less,” Kuffel said.

Speaking about changing social practices, Kuffel said, “We understand that these protocols are difficult, but one of the reasons why we’re doing that is because we don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t, and we don’t know how the virus will affect each individual,”

Kuffel, however, offered words of encouragement. “This too will pass, and we will come back while serving our parishioners in the community as best as possible though with new safety measures.”

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