Ray of Hope

Around Town


Pastor Pete BerntsonAlthough a date has not been set, Church of the Palms in Okatie is hoping to soon reopen its doors — at least partially. 

Since the majority of the church’s members are in the high-risk age group, Church of the Palms has been extremely cautious during the COVID-19 pandemic. The church, which is part of the United Methodist Church, has offered live streaming worship services since the beginning of the crisis. They also host Bible studies, spiritual formation classes and small group meetings on Zoom. 

“We’re eager to start moving those to a hybrid mode,” Pastor Pete Berntson said. “People can be a part of it in person if they feel safe or continue to use the live streaming capabilities until things get a little bit more safe for them.” 

Since many of the church’s members have been vaccinated, Berntson feels it’s time to start reopening. He said the church will continue to follow CDC guidelines, such as mask wearing and social distancing. He said the biggest challenge will be singing. 

Throughout the pandemic, the church has kept members informed about COVID-19 and connected them with the right resources when they needed them. The church publishes a daily online newsletter Monday through Friday. The newsletter includes words of encouragement, ways to help, ways to connect with others, prayers, devotions, as well as the latest COVID-19 statistics. The church has also helped people sign up for vaccines. 

The people of Church of the Palms have not been able to gather in person for worship, fellowship or meals as they normally would, and that has been difficult for many. But Berntson said the worst part is not being able to physically be there for church members who are ill or grieving. 

There have been several medical situations and several deaths among church members during the past year. Because of the pandemic, the church has not been able to offer as much support as it normally would. Widows and widowers have had to grieve at home alone. So, when the church does reopen, Berntson said they will probably be performing a few celebrations of life. 

“It’s been a long year,” Berntson said. “But we are seeing some rays of hope.” 

Spring has sprung, and Berntson is looking forward to the church’s upcoming outdoor events, including festivals and musical events. He’s also excited about the church’s famous pumpkin patch, which they’ve already started planning for the fall. 

Berntson said the pandemic has been traumatic for many, but it has also been a good time of discernment for the church. It has given the church a chance to reflect on what is and is not important in life, and where to go from here. 

“What will we as a church be on the other side of this?” Berntson asked. “We have the opportunity to be stronger, more faithful. So that’s the challenge — how do we use that to do what’s really vital and meaningful?” 

The Church of the Palms offers two live streaming services – a contemporary-style worship service at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and a classic-style worship service at 11 a.m. on Sundays. For more information on Church of the Palms, call 843-379-1888 or visit palmsumc.org

Services can be found by searching for The Church of the Palms on YouTube.