Chicago churches work to keep the faith during coronavirus crisis, holding services virtually

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many people are barely making ends meet during this pandemic, meaning fewer donations and financial contributions to churches in the area.

Sunday service at Greater St. John Bible Church on Chicago's West Side now happening with no one in the pews, all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Pastor Ira Acree says his ministry is now reaching a larger audience online.

"By way of live stream we are seeing ten times more people. We were averaging 500 views per Sunday, now we are averaging closed for 5,000 views per Sunday," Acree said.

Pastor Cornelius Parks heads a smaller church on the South Side where members are like family.

RELATED: Archdiocese of Chicago to broadcast Mass from Holy Name Cathedral amid COVID-19 concern

"We specialize in what we call fellowship hour. It is kind of hard because we do believe in loving on one another," said Parks from the First Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

He said it has been a challenge to connect with his elderly members who are not on social media where services are posted.

"By my church being a smaller church, with a lot of seniors, it has been kind of hard to reach out to them in multiple ways. However we still try to stay in touch," Parks said.

Many churches are taking a financial hit with no in-person services and with some of their members out of work.

"Your most devout, dedicated givers who support the church and keep the doors open are your older people, they really don't know how to get online and pay their money," Acree said.

"It has been rough," Park said. "Truth be told, it has been rough when we were having service."

Some churches across the state continue to keep their doors open despite the dangers of COVID-19.

State health officials are encouraging them to close.

"We must not continue to put people at risk, please hold virtual services," IDPH Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

West Side Pastor Maurice Gaiter said there is a lesson in the midst of this pandemic.

"The message now that we really really have to reach out to one another more than we have before," said Gaiter of Empowerment Community Church.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.