Living through coronavirus: Butler County pastor moved by congregation’s surprise

Members of Trenton GracePointe Nazarene Church wrote notes that were placed March 29 on their pews. The church started live-streaming its services two weeks ago because of the coronavirus. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Members of Trenton GracePointe Nazarene Church wrote notes that were placed March 29 on their pews. The church started live-streaming its services two weeks ago because of the coronavirus. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A Butler County pastor said he received “a shot in the arm” Sunday when he looked at the empty sanctuary and saw signs of encouragement placed on the pews at Trenton GracePointe Nazarene Church.

Senior Pastor Jon Young said services at GracePointe, 220 N. Miami St., have been streamed on Facebook for several years, but for the last two Sundays — after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered “non-essential” businesses to close and for people to start social distancing — he has preached standing before a camera with no congregation.

GracePointe member Beth Hayes said Young is an “interactive preacher” who gets the congregation involved in his sermon. He frequently calls out the members during the service, she said.

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“It had to be tough for him because he didn’t have faces in front of him,” Hayes said of the live-streaming.

So Roxann Greenfield, another GracePointe member, secretly contacted the congregation and said she had “a crazy idea” of having everyone type the pastor messages and placing them on the seats in the sanctuary.

“That way he and the rest of his crew will ‘see’ us and ‘feel’ us in the sanctuary while he brings his messages,” Greenfield said.

She received the messages, printed out the emails and placed them on the members’ regular seats before church on March 29. After her husband preached to an empty church the previous week, Cheryl Young said it was “really uplifting” to see all the personal notes on the pews.

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“Ministry is very relational,” she said. “Being with people is a big part of the ministry.”

She said it’s difficult for any ministry that’s unable to visit shut-ins, hospital patients and nursing home residents because of the coronavirus restrictions.

Pastor Young said the coronavirus “is a challenge unlike any church has ever faced before.”

In his third year as senior pastor, Young, 56, said he wants his message to mirror life.

“We love to laugh and celebrate,” he said. “Everybody is invited and everyone is liked. It’s a refuge. A time to share a moment of laughter, the scripture and challenge to get better.”

Hayes said her husband, David, was raised in the church and she started attending 11 years ago when they started dating. They’ve been married for 10 years.

She described GracePointe as “the most wonderful, most accepting” church she has attended. She called Young “a joker” who loves to laugh and have a good time.

TELLING YOUR STORIES

We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email rick.mccrabb@coxinc.com.