Island churches provide community aid, hope

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Roser Church’s chapel, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, is open March 18 for public prayer — with sanitizer stationed near the entrance. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
A sign outside Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., March 18 encourages worshippers to use live streaming options to watch Sunday services. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Houses of worship on Anna Maria Island are delivering messages of “faith over fear” in the face of COVID-19.

Congregation doors are temporarily closed, but island churches are holding services online and reaching out to meet community needs.

The Rev. Ed Moss of CrossPointe Fellowship said younger members of his congregation are stepping up to help people who are quarantined while striving to follow U.S. safety guidelines.

“We’ve got some folks in the church that are more compromised,” he said. “We want to protect them to the hilt, but also give them what they need. Even if that is just someone to talk to.”

Now is a time for the church to be of service to all members of the community, Moss said.

“This is not a time for vacation,” he said. “We see this as a time to grow in our knowledge of God, our love for each other and our serving of the community with no strings attached.”

Moss was reaching out to anyone who needed help to call or email him — and even posted an ad in The Islander — for readers who may need help with food delivery or putting out the garbage. He and his volunteers were ready to serve.

“This is a whole new ballgame,” the Rev. Doug Kings of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach said March 18 of establishing livestreaming services. “We were going to do it at some point, but now the need has arisen.”

Kings said the church planned to have services live on its Facebook page and YouTube by the week of March 23.

CrossPointe Fellowship, the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation and St. Bernard Catholic Church, all in Holmes Beach, and Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria also were livestreaming services, as well as other online programming through their websites.

Roser, 512 Pine Ave., planned to keep its chapel open for worship, according to the Rev. Dr. Bob O’Keef. He said March 19 that the building was being sanitized several times each day to keep it available to worshippers.

“It’s amazing how many people come in and use it every day,” O’Keef, the senior pastor, said. “People really appreciate that we have left it open.”

O’Keef also said the Roser Food Pantry would remain operational.

“We have had an amazing amount of food come in as visitors are leaving the island,” he said. “We are blessed to have plenty of food to share with those that might need the help right now.”

Churches also continued to provide services to members homebound before the spread of COVID-19, as well as those self-isolating.

“If anyone out there needs assistance, we have ministers that can shop and provide them with what they need,” Matthew Nowicki, director of family faith formation at St. Bernard, said March 18. “We should take this to heart as a time for charity toward others.”

O’Keef shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s ironic that we’re called upon to be a church in a time when we can’t gather and provide fellowship,” he said. “But we are trying to be the light in the midst of the darkness so that we can continue to be people of faith instead of people of fear.”