Local churches continue to serve Southern Illinois communities amid COVID concerns


Leah Sutton | @leahsuttonphotography

Rev. John Annable poses for a potrait. When speaking with Rev. John Annable, pastor at the University Baptist Church, he noted that the amount of food donations to the Good Samaritan Food Pantry has been down due to COVID-19. He stated, “it has affected quite a bit in terms of the amount of food that we have to give away and the way that people have to get here and get the food that they need.” Even though the food pantry has had a rough couple of months, they are still able to get the food stuffs from other Good Samaritan Food Pantries and bring them to Carbondale for the community to be able to participate in the drive-by food pantry. He also noted that since a lot of churches aren’t meeting in person right now, it is harder to find churches who are able to take their turn on a weekly basis and can donate food from their congregation. Just like how they were able to make it through in regards to the food pantry, Pastor Annable shares the positivity when looking at the church family as well as the community by stating, “I think that the church will grow stronger as they deal with these sort of things because they will realize that they have to find ways to meet the needs of people in difficult times.” Aug. 23, 2020.

By Sara Wangler, Staff Reporter

Churches, like many other establishments across the country, have been directly affected by COVID-19.

However, many churches are still offering essential services such as bill payments, groceries and emotional support groups directly to attendees. 

Father Bob Flannery of St. Francis Catholic Church in Carbondale shared insight into how he and his church have battled the pandemic. 


“It’s been an interesting and challenging time with the COVID experience,” Flannery said. “For about three months, we couldn’t have a congregation, but we were able to live stream mass. We had two to three people helping with music and getting the live stream together.”

According to Flannery, the church had permission to open back up on Father’s Day.

“Since then, we now have 25% of the capacity of the church in person with social distancing regulations,” Flannery said. 

The church does a lot of zoom meetings to keep people connected, but that is hard when many people don’t have much experience with technology, Flannery said. 

“We didn’t have everyone’s email before,” Flannery said. “Now we have it down to all but 60 people, most of them being elders.”  

Flannery also said the church sends out about 250 to 300 emails, then they have around 60 messages that are sent through the postal service. 

In addition to making virtual accommodations for masses, Flannery said he also worked with conducting funeral services. 


“I had a couple of funerals shortly after the shutdown,” Flannery said. “It was just me, the funeral director, and two friends of the family due to everyone in the family living out of state. The rest of the family connected via Zoom.” 

There have been three COVID cases at the church and a member of the church who was not attending services at the time was one of the first COVID-19 related deaths  in Jackson County.

Pastor John Hackman of the United Methodist Church of Marion said there are differences in the way his church operates.  Hackman also touched on how  COVID has affected the relationship between the church and the surrounding community. 

“We require temperature checks, masks, and there are markings on the floor,” Hackman said. “We’re in full compliance with the state laws and opening phases.” 

The church tried to conduct an outdoor service, but it was too hot and humid outside to host a church service. 

This option was considered because as a church they can’t sing in the building, Hackman said. 

“Singing out loud takes a lot of breath and exposes germs from one person to another. To combat that, one of the members of our congregation suggested that we learn the Lord’s Prayer in sign language instead of saying it out loud,” Hackman said. “So two members of our church who know sign language are teaching the church how to do it.”

Hackman said along with UMC of Marion’s addiction counseling services, there is a box outside the church where pre-made food is available. The box is filled regularly, so that anyone is welcome to take what they need. 

“We are partnered with Zion United Church of Christ [in Marion] producing a program called TWIGS,” Hackman said. “It’s a program for school-age children [who are ages] 5-18. We give away sack lunches Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Each bag has enough food for two days. Between the two churches, 100 bags are made a day. It costs $1.35 per sack lunch.”

Last year, the program saw 30 or 40 bags a day, but there’s quite a bit more of a need since the pandemic hit, Hackman said. 

“The Marion Ministerial Alliance gives away hot lunches Monday through Friday,” Hackman said. “Typically they would have 30-50 people a day coming in but now they see upwards of 200, sometimes 300 people a day.” 

The Newman Center, located on SIU campus, has also seen a lot of support from the community as well as the many drawbacks of COVID-19, Tim Taylor, director of the Newman Center, said.

“We were going to have a pizza night and just get to know new attendees but we had to postpone that, someone who had contact with the Newman Center had a positive test result of COVID. So until we get everyone tested and they come back negative, we won’t host any other events but mass,” Taylor said.

According to Taylor, there is more of a need since the pandemic, some come looking for aid with rent or bills. They haven’t seen a huge increase in that yet because there are so many programs to aid those in need. 

“The church sees a lot of fundraising with their alumni, and hosts a lot of fundraising events that won’t happen this year. There is also a fall gala which is dinner for around 200 hundred people,“ Taylor said. 

Staff reporter Sara Wangler can be reached at swangler@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @sara_Wangler.

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