HOLTVILLE — Parishioners at the Trinity Baptist Church were in the midst of “The Forty Days of Easter” — Lent in spiritual preparation for Easter — when California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.
So many of its 200 members turned to high-tech tools and participated in worship services through the Holtville church’s live streaming video-casts.
“We started on Ash Wednesday but then began live streaming on March 22 when we had to shelter in,” said Pastor Richard Moore. “We had 200 hits at first but now we get 2,000 hits as more people meet us online.”
The live streaming continued every day through Easter. Now, Trinity Baptist continues with an hour of live streaming on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. for its Bible Institute for Spanish-speaking congregants and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. for Adult Bible study in English.
“I preached a third of the 40 days and our associate pastors preached the rest,” recalled Moore.
Pandemic Shuffles Liturgical Schedule
Trinity had four Sunday services before the restrictions but now only has a bilingual one at 10:15 a.m. There also is an evening Sunday prayer held at the church but it is limited to a 10-person praise team who all wear surgical masks and keep at least six feet apart.
“They really enjoy it … it touches everybody’s heart,” said Moore.
But church members certainly feel the loss of participating in worship at the church that included a congregate meal service on Wednesdays. That was also when the AWANA Bible study for pre-school students was held that attracted 35 to 40 children. It also served as a day care center when two through five year olds had a nap after lunch and scheduled activities until 5: 30 p.m.
“We were disappointed when it closed after they closed the public schools,” said Moore.
Church Mitigation Programs Affected
Trinity’s Restoration Center, similar to Turning Point’s Men’s Home for drug and alcohol abuse, also had to temporarily close. In fact, Trinity had bought Turning Point’s former men’s lodging for its program that accommodates 10 but is currently serving five or six.
“They’re getting their lives straightened out,” said Moore. “We have a construction ministry where men learn to pour concrete, carpentry, painting and we’ve even had one recently go into ministry, Oscar Felix, who is now the pastor of Trinity Baptist Ministry in Seeley. They now must watch our service on live stream. But he made a difference and brought a lot of people into his church.”
Virtual Worship a Lifeline
Moore said he misses the in-person Easter worship at the church. Yet now social distancing guidelines have been extended to May 15 and that will mean missing the Mother’s Day worship service at Holt Park.
“That’s going to cause a lot of consternation; last year we had 200 at the park,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen.”
Susan Hawk, a Trinity member for 20 years, explained most of the membership is tuning in to the live stream micro-casts.
“We definitely rather be there in person,” she said. “But if all you can do is live stream, it’s a good alternative. We ordinarily go to church every Sunday so we’ll definitely continue to access it online.”
Trinity is also known for its missionary outreach. Bonnie Doland, a dynamic member, engages locals across the globe, including currently in Kitwe, Zambia. There she has collaborated with Bennet Ndleneti, directory of the seminary there, and their close relationship eventually blossomed into marriage.
“It’s a great ministry and Bonnie handles the finances there,” said Moore. “We also do medical brigades and send people to journey across the globe. When I came here 39 years ago, we spoke just English but now we have 70 percent Spanish speaking, so we’re bilingual. And yet we now look like the community of Holtville.”