Harrisburg church adjusts how they worship during a pandemic

Local News

HARRISBURG, S.D. (KELO) — A church in Harrisburg had to change the way they worship during the pandemic, and they came up with a unique way to interact with families.

The Saint John Paul II Catholic Church in Harrisburg is not your typical church building.

“I was driving down Cliff Avenue and I looked over and saw this building,” Rev. John Rutten said. “It was a former bank and there was a drive-thru and I just thought, we pulled in, stopped and we looked in the window and I thought, ‘I think this would be perfect for an office.’ So we got the realtor to come, we checked it out, and it actually was perfect for a chapel too.”

The chapel holds smaller services and the church offices. This church’s community, which has around 250 families, normally gathers at the Harrisburg High School Performing Arts Center, but because of the pandemic, they now hold mass virtually using Facebook Live.

“Never done it before, but it seemed to just fit,” Rutten said. “I was a little restless. It didn’t seem enough. You know the church is a people that come together and electronically, well I was like, ‘This is the best that we can do.'”

Not only have they offered their mass online, but they also started a drive-thru communion.

“Watch mass on Facebook Live, and then get in your car with your family and come through the drive-thru and we offer the blessed sacrament, the Eucharist, to anyone that comes through,” Rutten said.

The church has been offering drive-thru communion for over a month, and they’ve received a lot of praise.

“It’s a really important part of growing up as a faith-filled family is being able to receive communion and just having the opportunity to do so. We’re grateful for that opportunity,” parishioner John Stearns said.

“I think it was just nice to have that ongoing connection and I think we were excited to still have that touch-point with our community and with Father and Deacon, and not have to feel like we had to give up everything just because of COVID,” parishioner Jessie Muth said.

The church has been having mass on Facebook Live since March and started offering mass in-person to a few families a week for children receiving their first communion.

The parish will once again worship at the high school starting next week, but will have limited seating. They will continue the drive-thru communion at the chapel.

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