By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Like businesses and schools, churches have had to be creative to adjust their services and programming during the pandemic to continue to provide the sense of community needed by so many.
Northborough churches have had to adapt quickly to offer outdoor parking lot services and virtual religious education classes, committee meetings, grief support groups and faith enrichment groups despite facing financial shortfalls.
“It’s an isolating and lonely time, and church is a very important part of the community,” said Trinity Church Senior Minister Rev. Valeria Schmidt. “We are trying all we can to keep connected.”
First Parish of Northboro Minister Rev. Lynda Sutherland said they ensured that everyone received a phone call to touch base.
“I phone, text and email people and I also have been setting up some masked, face-to-face, porch visits and people are so appreciative of that right now,” she said.
Live-stream services is another way of keeping the church community connected.
“It has opened the door for some tech-minded people to join the worship team, which has been great,” said Sutherland.
Going virtual has had unexpected benefits. People out of the area or those who don’t drive or don’t feel comfortable to attend in person are participating.
“People can participate in more than they normally could,” Schmidt said. “We are trying to make it as easy as possible.”
Church volunteers continue to be involved with programs like the Community Meals program.
St. Rose of Lima also has an outreach program focusing on their vulnerable parishioners to help identify their needs, provide resources and lessen feelings of loss and loneliness.
St. Rose’s Women’s Club made and donated over 3,000 masks.
“It was a gift for both those making the masks and receiving them,” said St. Rose Pastoral Assistant Theresa Fugardi.
A volunteer sanitizing crew has been added to St. Rose as part of the new protocols.
“It’s to keep the church safe and at the same time as welcoming as can be,” Pastor Father James Houston explained.
St. Rose held a Family Fun week Oct. 31 through Nov. 8. Activities were geared to all ages to highlight faith, fun, fellowship and service, including a virtual 5k race/walk.
All of these adjustments have had to be made while churches are facing financial challenges due to the pandemic.
“It has been a substantial blow because we do rent space to Nashoba Montessori School during the week,” said Sutherland. “They have started with half the students and we have lost several months of revenue.”
Although a recent virtual auction at First Parish Northboro did well, annual fundraisers like the Memorial Day weekend yard sale, strawberry shortcake sale and Applefest didn’t happen.
“Everyone is making the best of what we have and not expecting ourselves to be or do everything we have been in the past,” Sutherland said. “We are noticing new opportunities and ideas as people start thinking creatively to fill needs in times like these.”
Despite the challenges that have been faced, there are positive outcomes – slowing down, more family and outdoor time, and spending less.
“Difficulties lead to new areas of growth,” added Houston. “There’s hope. We are used to a quick fix, but people are adaptable.”
“I see so much kindness from people who are caring and concerned for one another,” said Sutherland. “Our sense of community has actually grown.”
“Church doesn’t stop,” added Fugardi. “We continue to grow. We are going through this difficult time together.”