Most churches have gone virtual with their worship services and most activities during the coronavirus pandemic or at socially distanced decreased capacity in communities that are reopening. When COVID-19 is no longer a prevalent health threat, they have physical buildings for members and friends to return to fellowship with their church families.
What is ahead for a church when COVID-19 takes over its place of worship? That has been the case for ponderance and prayer for Hands of God Ministries, which, before the pandemic, held service on Sundays at the Quality Inn in Florissant, the hotel the State of Missouri took over and turned into a COVID-19 alternate care hospital site back in early April.
“We had no knowledge that they were changing it into a hospital,” Rev. Hershwanee Lewis, pastor of Hands of God Ministries, said.
It happened so quickly that the church did not have the opportunity to remove its podium and other equipment and supplies from the hotel. Lewis heard about the switch from a member who saw it on the news one night. By the next morning, the hotel and all that was inside it were already turned over to the Missouri National Guard, which was detailed to retrofit it.
The Alternate Care site was set up by the state for COVID-19 patients to complete their recovery there and reserve space for more urgent and critical cases at the regular hospitals. The site was chosen due to the numbers of COVID-19 cases being reported in North St. Louis County.
“The alternate care site served 28 patients total, discharging the last patient May 12,” said Caty Luebbert, public information officer for the state Emergency Management Agency. “The Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MO DMAT-1) helped provide medical support alongside the Missouri National Guard while it was operational. MO DMAT-1 demobilized on May 18, and the Missouri National Guard left May 31.”
Then the hotel-turned-hospital turned back into a hotel. It has not turned back into a place of worship. Spiking numbers of new COVID-19 cases are breaking records in the St. Louis area and around the U.S., which is readjusting plans and safety precautions in all areas of life. For Hands of God Ministries, it turns out that attendance, praise and worship have increased in its virtual space – an unexpected blessing bestowed in the midst of a public health storm. First lady Traci Lewis opens Facebook watch parties for the sermons.
“On Thursday in Bible study, we talked about how much we reach people through our Facebook,” Rev. Lewis said.
The church recently received word from the hotel that it will be back open for business in August. However, the door that abruptly closed in April brought forth a window of opportunity for the ministry.
“We are going to pray about if God wants us to move to a new facility or if we are going to be looking for a co-worship space with some other church,” Lewis said. “We are just keeping our options open right now.”
Lewis said that everyone should embrace the pandemic as an opportunity.
“I just pray that everybody stays safe and uses this time to connect with their families, to connect more with God,” Lewis said. “This is a perfect opportunity; God is giving us an opportunity to pause in life. When have we had the whole world forced to pause, reflect and reevaluate some things? And I pray that everybody takes this time to do that.”
In addition to Sunday morning services at 10:30 a.m., Hands of God Ministries offers Thursday evening prayer at 7 p.m. via Zoom. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Hands of God Ministries on Facebook.