FAIRFIELD BAY, Ark. – Van Buren county is facing a sharp rise in cases, and some religious centers are voluntarily canceling in-person services days before Christmas. Many Fairfield Bay churches are going online for Christmas mass, shutting their doors to in-person gatherings. It’s a challenging time for those celebrating, but one pastor wants to remind Arkansans: Christmas is a time of hope.
It’s the time of year where the walls inside the Fairfield Bay United Methodist Church would be filled with holiday decorations and congregants eager to celebrate the holidays. But this year, things are different. “Its a little more lonely,” said Paul Strang, pastor of the church. Christmas services were held this weekend as the parish prepares to move church services virtually, something they’ve started to implement weeks ago. “Today was our last in-person for a while,” Strang said Sunday.
“The churches in our area voluntarily closed and are doing online worshiping,” explained Fairfield Bay mayor Linda Duncan, who released a holiday PSA this weekend to the town’s more than 2,000 residents. She’s asking people to limit gatherings for the next two weeks, even closing the city’s Senior Center after a client tested positive for COVID-19. Duncan explains how the county’s rising case count cause some concern among the city population of mostly retirees. “Our residents are over the age of 65, most of them…Of course, that’s the age that COVID hits the worst.”
Places of worship are now voluntarily suspending in-person services in the hopes of stopping the spread and protecting community members. Fairfield Bay United Methodist has been streaming sermons and recording services to limit in-person masses. Pastor Strang has learned how to vlog, and is still working through the challenges of online worship. But even during times of COVID, he’s helping people find light right before Christmas. “God is good. This then obviously cannot be from him, and so that means he wants us out of it.”
The city will reevaluate the case count in two weeks and will update their recommendations from there. Pastor Strang hopes this will mean the return of in-person services, and says he will invite congregants back as soon as he’s able. You can learn more about Fairfield Bay United Methodist here.