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Montana churches empty, Pastors encourage members

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Posted at 2:31 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 16:31:43-04

Churches canceled Sunday services after a county order issued Friday , for gatherings of no more than 10, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Pastors and those helping with online services were among the only people at church.

The bells rang for the beginning of Mass at St. Pius X Catholic Church but there was no big service.

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The parking lot at Trinity Lutheran Church was empty with Pastors on standby.

“It is really strange coming to church and there’s a building but no people here to worship,” said Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Daniel Keinath.

Even when they’re not preaching, they have a message.

“Our senior Pastor (Daniel Rinderknecht) says, we might be quarantined from being around people or even at church, but Jesus has not quarantined himself from us,” Keinath said.

While there are no services in Billings or around the country, churches can still provide an opportunity to worship.

“The resources are online,” Keinath said. “We’ve got some of our devotionals that we’re setting up and recording.”

Other churches also have services available on social media and websites.

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“So that we might face the future not in fear but in strength knowing you are with us this day and in each day forward,” Rev. Michael Nickerson of the United Methodist Church prayed during a service seen on Facebook.

And they also have messages while people deal with the coronavirus away from church.

“We have God with us,” Nickerson said. “Christ’s presence is among us.”

“There will be new hope in what God can do, in what other people can do, in what you can do,” Pastor Ross of 1st Baptist Church said on Facebook.

“Don’t lose perspective in the situation you are in and don’t stop trusting God,” Harvest Church Pastor Vern Streeter said in sermon seen on Facebook.

“To be in God’s Word," Keinath said about encouraging his congregation. "To have family devotions, to be singing hymns and things as a family is really what we’re encouraging people to do as they look to our Lord for comfort and peace during this time.”

This may not be the first time all churches have closed in billings.

Churches also closed for the Spanish Flu in the fall of 1918, according to Kevin Kooistra, executive director of the Western Heritage Center.

Kooistra’s research shows that in November of 1918 churches were given permission to hold open air services, so he said churches must have been closed.

He also said 1st Methodist and 1st Congregational were used as emergency hospitals.