Ever had someone ask you how your faith is holding up these days and you have to think about it?
Pastor Joe McCormick of the Mt. Calvary Chapel in American Fork said his faith and the faith of his expanding congregation for the most part is weathering the storms of 2020.
Mt. Calvary is part of a larger association of churches that teaches the Bible. They go from Genesis to Revelations verse by verse.
His congregation is about 500 members in the area, but his online members are half again as much and span the globe.
McCormick has lived in the Utah County area for 17 years and has been live streaming his meetings long before COVID-19 came on the scene.
“We’ve been blessed. Our congregation owns our building, and we are all here together,” McCormick said.
During the current pandemic, McCormick also has added a group message via text.
“Our members receive messages in real time,” McCormick said. “We understand who is having a hard time and connect with them.”
McCormick, the lead pastor at the church and the two assistant pastors even make DVDs for the older members and deliver them so they can enjoy messages and church meetings.
“We want to be a stabilizing voice for the members,” McCormick said. “Some people are not comfortable coming back to face-to-face church. They have gotten used to watching services in their pajamas. At least they’re getting the Word.”
McCormick said their faith is still strong.
“It’s been a test for everyone. I’m pleased our congregation has held together,” McCormick said. “We have a father in God.”
He said even online, he has watched how members of his congregation have reached out and talked to each other — even with political differences — with honor and love.
On Aug. 15, USA Today wrote the following about Arkansas Pastor Rod Loy:
“On a recent Sunday, Rod Loy, senior pastor at the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas, delivered the message of the Gospel through his computer screen.
“It’s easy to live out your faith when everything is going good,” he preached to his congregation. “But the real test is difficult. How does your faith hold up when the doctor gives you a bad report, the kids get bad grades and you can’t pay your bills? How does your faith hold up when you lose your job in the middle of a pandemic? The true test of faith is a difficulty, hardship and persecution,” the USA story reported.
Emily Lower, an anthropology professor at Utah Valley University, is the daughter of retired pastor Rev. George Lower. She has been engulfed in faith and struggles from birth.
Lower, a member of the Springville Community Presbyterian Church, says all of the issues of 2020 have made her faith very meaningful.
“It makes you realize what God means to you,” Lower said.
Unlike McCormick, Lower is part of an aging congregation that, while members consider themselves family, the group continues to dwindle.
The Springville Presbyterian Church has been a staple of the community for more than 128 years. Members are a people of faith.
It may be that the future of the congregation will be through the online meetings as the church ages.
Lower noted that while the members’ faith is strong even with church being a Zoom meeting, there are things that will be missed this year that strengthens one’s faith.
“Christmas is going to be tough,” Lower said. She noted the Christmas carols and music particularly.
“I’m already missing singing at Christmas,” she said.
According to the Utah Valley Interfaith Association, a group of 40 churches and nonprofit groups, up to 25% of the local community churches will close their doors for good as a result of the current pandemic.
Chaplain Linda Walton, a member of the Provo Seventh-day Adventist congregation and Chaplain to all the universities and colleges in Utah County as well as the Provo Police Department, said she learned an important lesson from her father.
“I learned how to play poker from my father when I was 5 years old,” Walton said. “It wasn’t about gambling, it was about how to learn to read people’s faces.”
That lesson has helped her as an adult. Now, as churches are meeting online their faces are darkened out.
“You can’t see expressions or body language online,” Walton said. “This is a problem. Meetings aren’t going as well.”
It is causing an issue for the strength of faith.
“A lot of people go to church for the potluck,” Walton said. “They don’t know their neighbors. They go to church for the social aspect.”
Walton said there needs to be more for faith to stay strong. You need the Holy Spirit so it can work on you and help you make decisions.
Overall, Walton believes people will be taken care of and suggests that maybe this pandemic is one of the biblical plagues.
“Maybe this is biblical, maybe it’s not all Trump,” Walton said. “This will divide the girls from the women and teach us stuff we can’t learn in Sunday school.”
She added religion and building faith “is in giving service. Faith is strengthened by action.”
Alexander Jensen, 26, from Orem knows about taking action, losing faith, finding it and holding on.
A little more than five years ago, Jensen, left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he was born and raised in.
He proclaimed he was an atheist, but eventually started looking up churches, their beliefs and if there was one he could feel comfortable attending.
He joined St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo and has become an active member of the congregation. He carries his prayer beads, wears a cross necklace and has his prayer book in his backpack while attending Utah Valley University.
“It’s been tougher than it used to be, especially around here,” Jensen said.
Jensen said having his prayer book, from which he reads daily, has kept him connected.
“When I was attending school in person, I’d bring my books then go to the UVU Reflection Center,” Jensen said.
There he could meditate, read and have contemplative prayer. There he connects with his faith and that is when it grows.