As Chicago’s shutdown gradually lifts, West Loop churches are looking to reintroduce in-person services while continuing to use many of the technological tools that have enabled them to build and maintain strong community relationships from home.
Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams St., opened mass services to the public June 21, though the number of services was initially limited, per the recommendations of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Keara Ette, director of ministries said. The first in-person service had approximately 50 attendees.
For Amada Giordano, a Roscoe Village resident who has been a member of the church since 2005, attending the first in-person mass since the shutdown was an experience that moved her to tears. The church has played a “very special” role in her life. She and her hus- band Dean were married at St. Patrick’s, and their son Aiden was baptized there.
Because of the 50-person limit for the initial service, the Giordanos decided that they would only use one spot so other families would have a chance to participate. Amada Giordano was the first to go.
“When I arrived on Sunday, they told us to get there at 7:45 a.m.,” Giordano said. “They had markers where we should stand before we could proceed into church, and then we were checked in. We had to do hand sanitizer and then we were ordered up to the pews. So, it was obviously very well organized ... there were two people to a pew, unless you were with your family,
but it was very much spread out and obviously different, like we all had our masks on. But it was a beautiful experience.”
At New Community Church, the pandemic has not stopped congregants and church leaders from staying connected virtually, with services and prayer meetings regularly live-streamed on Facebook and small group meetings held on Zoom, Executive Pastor Frank Cho said.
“It caused us to kind of rethink what the future of our church is going to look like,” he said. “Obviously, now that we’re reopening, a lot of people still feel like they want to stay at home, and we’re OK with that, and so we continue to livestream.”
“People really love to physically be together, I think especially as a
church, a religious organization,” he said. “I’m a pastor, but I’m an introvert. I prefer to be alone. But it’s extremely difficult being alone, and you realize the absolute need to stay connected with people.”
Lake Shore Church, a congregation of about 20 members, moved its Sunday morning worship and Wednesday fellow- ship meetings to Zoom when the pandemic hit, Pastor Brian Larson said. The church has also begun hosting weeknight prayer meetings each evening through the same platform.
“It’s been going great,” he said. “It’s been really fabulous, and it’s something. In some ways we’re probably going to continue and keep using Zoom to hold some meetings.”