Bath United Church of Christ care ministries active, despite pandemic

by Wendy Turrell 

Bath United Church of Christ congregants are not gathering to worship in the church during COVID-19, but the Rev. Dr. Jill Small and her flock are continuing, even intensifying, their vibrant range of care ministries during the pandemic.  

Small said the church has not missed a single Sunday of worship, with livestream services every Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. and archived services on the church’s website. Bath UCC has also provided educational and fellowship opportunities online.  

“Most of our committees, boards – all volunteers – have continued to meet and work online, and that has been a great blessing,” she said. 

The church’s work is not restricted to pre-pandemic programs or to online activities.  

“Last March, as COVID-19 took hold, we initiated phone groups to keep in touch,” Small said. “Our Youth Ministry Board extended that into an ‘adopt an elder’ outreach.”  

Another church group, the Women’s Christian Fellowship, prepared and delivered over 80 Christmas goodie bags to members who were homebound, in nursing homes, lived alone or had lost a family member in the past year. 

Small cited the steady need for non-COVID-19 related pastoral care, such as births, deaths, family crises and health issues. She has noticed a slight increase in these services since the onset of the pandemic and a few requests from those who are not Bath UCC members, but not many. 

COVID-19 has forced changes to the way church members serve one another and the community. The Prayer Shawl ministry, coordinated by Nancy Schrader, used to meet at the church once a month to knit and bless shawls the team gives to those suffering from illness or a crisis. The shawls are a source of physical and emotional warmth to let sufferers know they are held in prayer during difficult times.  

Now, the Prayer Shawl knitters work individually from home. 

Meg Lamb is an active member of the Prayer Chain, Breadwinners and card-making ministries. Prayer Chain is coordinated by Ginger Golz and continues unchanged. Confidential requests for prayer from congregational members or others are sent by email to chain members. 

Breadwinners used to gather monthly at the church to bake bread to deliver to those returning home from the hospital, suffering a loss, having a new baby or requiring another need.  

The group cannot bake together until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but coordinators Mary Jo Betham and Susan Bresnahan have been baking loaves at home, delivering them with masks and social distancing protocols. 

The Breadwinners’ loaves are distributed with handmade notes by the Card Ministry committee, many of whose members are mothers who previously crafted cards while their young children were in Wednesday choir practice. This, too, has become a home-based mission. 

Lamb said the group still completed over 500 holiday cards the past year for the Haslinger Palliative Care Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, a center for families who have endured bereavement or have a child with a life-threatening illness. The ministry also filled 40 stockings for children who were hospitalized over the holidays. 

The Card Ministry makes cards available at the church for members to send for birthdays, sympathy, thinking-of-you, new baby, welcome and other occasions. 

The Samaritans program, coordinated by Martha Salem, matches shut ins and those who are alone or in care facilities with church members who stay in touch with them by visits, cards and calls.  

Betsy Riley and Family Life and Youth Pastor Ginger Bakos match young families with older members who cannot get out because of pandemic restrictions. The younger members ease the isolation of their elders and offer assistance, such as picking up groceries. 

Salem also coordinates the active Health Care Ministry Team, which loans gently used donated medical equipment for short-term use. Ministry members perform additional services like coordinating flu shots, administering monthly blood pressure checks, providing AED and CPR training and organizing speakers on various health topics. 

Bath UCC’s building may be temporarily empty, but its missions continue unabated.  

“Because I have been fortunate enough to assist in many of these programs, I have seen the comfort of a hand clutching a soft blanket, the smile on an older person’s face who receives a loaf of bread or has a post-surgery meal delivered,” Lamb said. “During COVID-19, one woman shared with me that I was the first person she had talked to in days, besides her dogs!”  

Lamb described the benefits of giving: “Time spent assembling cards, or for those kneading bread, praying or working those knitting needles allows us to feel like we are doing something, anything, during the many days of just staying home. … We are still doing what we can to serve the Bath community.”  

Bath United Church of Christ Sunday morning worship services are conducted on, where information about all the care ministries is available.

Feature image photo caption: Nancy Wells and Dan Nelson of Bath United Church of Christ’s Breadwinners care ministry bake bread for members of the community. Photo by G. Flinn

Bath United Church of Christ’s care ministries have always assisted those in need in both the congregation and the greater community. Now, during the pandemic, the volunteer-led ministries have adapted, and in some cases expanded, to offer love and care to those who need it most.