Local churches in Cody adapting to COVID era

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 3:47 PM CDT
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CODY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Churches in every community are cornerstones for a large segment of the population. They provide comfort, social engagement, and a sense of belonging.

So when COVID-19 outbreaks forced public health officials to shut down large gatherings in March, churches found themselves in new territory.

Kay Wittman is the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cody. She says before the coronavirus outbreak, they had a very active, although small congregation - and she says that when they were forced to shut their doors in March, she felt it would be for just a few weeks.

“At that time, there was no way I thought we wouldn’t be back in the church for Easter,” she recalls. “And then, one of my pastor friends said, ‘Well, I don’t know if we’ll be back for Easter,’ and I was just, like, ‘WHAT?’”

Wittman says they got creative, securing a unique space in which to worship.

“We skipped one week of worship, and then the next week we started worshiping at the Drive-In Theater in Powell.”

But not all churches cancelled services right away. Pat and Renee Alphin lead the Cody Cowboy Church. They say the Park County Health Officer approved their gathering after church groups from around the country came to Cody to help them build an outdoor space.

“It opened up where we could move all our sound system and everything out on the deck,” Pat says, “and we put fire pits down in front, so people could stand around the fire pit, or they could pull up and just sit in their car and do the service. We submitted that, and Park County was on board with that.”

Many churches have turned to video, producing weekly programs for members of their congregation that have access to the internet. But live services are becoming more prevalent - particularly outdoor services.

And the Alphins note that from their perspective, gathering as a congregation to worship in person is an important American freedom. 

“We have a First Amendment right to gather, and, especially, to worship God,” Renee points out. “And so, we don’t plan on giving that right up anytime soon.”

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