How religious leaders cope and help community during a pandemic

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Churches in the state are now allowed to hold indoor services after a federal judge blocked Governor Roy Cooper's restrictions on religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Religious leaders in the East are still making adjustments, but also trying to remember to take care of themselves in the process with a job that never ends.

Picture: MGN

A big part of the clergy's job is to offer some sense of hope for their communities, but who's checking in on our local pastor's to see how their managing to help so many people going through hard times?

Pastor Dennis Peay with Bethel United Methodist Church says church will never be the same.

Peay said, "I told them, the way we left worship on March 8th is going to be the last memory you're ever gonna have of doing worship in that way for a long time."

Paey is one of many religious leaders forced to shut down services as a result of coronavirus restrictions. But while pastors have been trying their best to give hope to others during these times, it's hard to remember to check on their own mental health, which staff Pastor Trev Evans with Koinonia Christian Center says is easy to forget.

Evans said, "The essence of what we do is to help other people. And consequently, we are a casualty of that."

Evans says he's been connecting with other pastors going through the same struggles.

"We've never been here before. And we're just doing the best that we can," said Evans.

Peay echos this process, while also leaning on his family.

"I learned a long time ago that clergy self-care is an important part of what I needed to make sure that I followed up on on my own. No one is going to do that for me," said Peay.

And it's not just Christianity.

"All our faith religions, in some capacity, have that sense of hope that are a part of what they are; whether... Muslim, or Hindu, or Sikh."

Even in times of trouble, many religious leaders say they can't lose hope and they hold on to that faith to keep pressing on.

Evans said, "The method has changed, but the message is still the same."

Peay said, "I can see doom around here. I can see death, but if I can get people to understand there's more to life than this life on earth, then there's something to live for."

Peay also says he's hoping they can resume church services on May 31, with some restrictions. And Evans says K.C.C. is still offering several web-based options for all who wish to watch.

Governor Cooper's spokesperson issued a statement in response to Saturday's ruling, saying: "While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe."