While many pastors ponder a future in which members can once again gather normally inside the church building, Stephen Watson just ponders one with a church building.
Watson is the senior pastor at Christ Community Church in Harker Heights, which since its inception in 2019 has been meeting at the Armed Services YMCA.
The church recently acquired land across the street from the YMCA for its new place of worship, but have not been able to begin construction due to the coronavirus.
“Right now the permits are with the city,” Watson said. “It’s hard. I want to pull the trigger on some things, but we are waiting on permits.”
The church began with about 60 members from Grace Bible Church in Killeen, with a vision to provide more worship opportunities in the growing city of Harker Heights.
“There has been explosive growth for residential, schools and businesses here,” Watson said. “But churches have not been added at the same rate.”
Now Watson said the congregation is up to about 100 members, with some services ranging up to 120 people.
Like most churches recently, Christ Community has turned to online worship. But unlike churches that have their own building, Christ Community has had to wait on the YMCA to reopen before it can begin in-person worship again. And the church can only adjust so much at the YMCA.
“We love our relationship with them,” Watson said of the YMCA. “They have been great to us.”
The Y is back open, and Christ Community will follow suit on May 31. But there will be a lot of changes.
First, the church will only meet at 25 percent capacity.
“I know (the guidelines) are now 50 but we are opening cautiously,” Watson said. “And we are going from one service to three: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.”
Because they also have to be compliant with YMCA guidelines, the church is asking members to register for a service time in advance. The service times will last about 50 minutes, down from the church’s normal 1:20 minute average.
But the biggest change?
“We are canceling our nursery,” Watson said. “The services will all be family-inclusive. If you are trying to fight germs, you can’t do that really with a room full of 3-year-olds.
“But I’m looking forward to that. I love to have kids in the service. I’m expecting a little bit of chaos, but that’s fine.”
Watson said to keep some of the kids interested the staff has developed “a church bingo” in which children can mark off spots for various items such as “if the preacher tells a bad joke,” Watson said, with a laugh. “And at the end of the service they can get a gift. It’s something to get them to pay attention.”
Even without a permanent home, online services, and now registering for a return, Watson said the church is getting stronger and growing, as new people have turned to their Bible studies and sermons online.
So as he sorts through the current chaos, it’s understandable why Watson looks forward to a brighter future.
“Our contractor is ready to go,” he said. “It’s all dependent on permits. We love the city of Harker Heights and we realize they have been backed up as much as everyone. We love the YMCA, so it’s easy to be patient.”