Pastor Peter Sheff of Abundant Grace Ministries in Searsmont said his church only suspended in-person worship for about a month at the beginning of the pandemic. Since around mid-April they have held services together, without masks, and with members sitting where they choose.

No one in the congregation has come down with COVID-19, he said, and added, "I am confident that if anyone in our church felt sick … they wouldn't have to be told to stay home."

Services have been broadcast on Facebook Live since before the pandemic began, he said, and continue to garner 100 to 200 viewers each week, while the in-person services get 40 to 50 on a Sunday morning.

Sheff said the congregation had grown in the last few months, in part because of a series it began about six weeks ago on Tuesday nights. Participants gather to share a meal and watch a series of videos titled "I Am Second," featuring sports figures, actors and others who have overcome various forms of addiction by turning to Christ.

Both people who have identified an addiction in their lives and those who want to support them are welcome, he said, noting that, "We all have different addictions to different things, and they replace God. And we want to stop worshiping our idols and worship God instead."

He said the program has attracted people who are looking for help but don't want to be preached at, and the relaxed format has allowed intimacy to develop in the group. "People are very transparent when they feel safe."

Sheff said in his experience one's politics tends to dictate one's response to the pandemic, with Republicans more likely to be skeptical of news about the virus and Democrats tending toward "doom and gloom."

However, he said, "The Lord had used the virus in a way to test us. … Are we going to keep people not just at a physical distance, but an emotional distance?" He advises parishioners to trust their own judgment and do all they can to live healthy lives. He also wants to remain open to people, regardless of their attitude toward the current situation.

"My prayer is that the Lord would help me to have a winsome spirit … not to be so polarized that I alienate people on one side or the other, but be able to talk to people I may not agree with."

Our series of interviews with Waldo County clergy explores how their congregations are finding new ways to worship, to connect with each other and the wider community, and to find hope and encouragement in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Clergy interested in participating in the series may contact the editor at or 338-3334, ext. 110.

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