By CHRIS PUTMAN
While everyone is anxious to get out of their homes and back to a normal routine, one Broken Arrow pastor is wanting to move cautiously on resuming services because of concern for his flock.
Pastor Chris Buskirk of Abiding Harvest Church is moving slowly toward church as usual. He has a genuine uneasiness for his church members’ health and wants to keep them safe.
“Our people’s usual habits to enthusiastically greet one another could lead to moments when social distancing is forgotten and exposure riskier,” Buskirk said. “As a diabetic, I am one of those higher-risk populations myself.”
While Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is in conversation with faith leaders about a phased plan to open churches, Buskirk heard the governor’s challenge to use creativity in taking precautions that guarded people’s health. He feels the first phase of plans for Abiding Harvest are now taking shape.
Sunday, May 3, Buskirk held a “Park & Praise” service using a short-range FM transmitter, one of the first for the entire month of May. He spoke from an onsite platform plugged into the airwaves while church members remained safe in their vehicles in the church parking lot and tuned into the church’s frequency. Parishioners were encouraged to sing along with the Worship Minister Terri Dietrich and adapt to “responsive honking” in place of their “amens” often verbalized during the regular church services.
Recently, the church has moved to live streaming during the lockdown, and since so many viewers have tuned in, that will become a permanent fixture to the Sunday morning services in addition to this Sunday’s FM broadcast.
“There’s a lot in play here from people’s health to constitutional liberties,” Buskirk said. “I like Stitt’s approach. He’s working with faith leaders, and while being flexible, is calling leaders to take seriously and think creatively about their personal responsibility for their people and reasonable health precautions in phases.”
Abiding Harvest IT Service Director and Church Council Chair Dick Ready was one of the first to pick a prime spot in the Abiding Harvest parking lot.
“In these days of isolation and ‘shelter-in-place,’ events like our stay-in-your-car worship service at the church facility, allow us to see each other face-to-face while still remaining safe,” Ready said. “Finding ways for us all to stay connected is rooted deep in the heart of this faith community.”
The church’s worship center is located at 4407 S. Olive Ave. in Broken Arrow, on South Olive between 111th and 101st streets. The public is invited to attend any of the “Park and Praise” events until the church is opened. Live streaming can be accessed on the church Facebook page at Abiding Harvest UMC. For more information, call 918-449-1970 or visit abidingharvest.org.