Providence Presbyterian gets creative during pandemic


Since its founding in 1986, Providence Presbyterian Church’s mission has been to “cause God joy.” 

The Rev. Dr. William Ward, a fourth-generation Presbyterian minister for the past 27 years, said his church has caused God great joy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Like other churches around the world, Providence had to get creative with its services to prevent the spread of the virus while continuing its mission. In March, the church closed its sanctuary doors and began live-streaming its 10 a.m. service.  

In June, the Hilton Head Island church reopened its in-person service with a maximum of 75 worshippers, continued to stream it online and added a third option — an outdoor service in the church’s shaded fellowship park.  

“We are blessed here,” Ward said. “We have about 20 acres about a block off the beach. We set up a tent and got some guitar players and keyboardists, and asked people to come.” 

The pastor said people love the informal service and are less worried about the virus spreading outside in the fresh air. The service runs about 35 minutes. 

The church encourages people to socially distance during the indoor and outdoor services, and wear masks inside. There is also no passing of the peace or shaking hands.  

A benefit of the outdoor service is that it has drawn in out-of-town visitors who were staying in nearby timeshares.   

“They hear the music, and they walk on over,” Ward said. “It’s something that we started doing because of the virus, but it very well could be something that is now a permanent part of our ministry here.” 

During the pandemic, Providence has focused much of its efforts on helping people who are struggling in the community. The church has donated takeout meals to people in need and handed out backpacks to underprivileged children in the nearby Cordillo Courts villa complex. 

Providence has also stepped up to help the young people of the church. With school back in session and parents struggling to oversee their virtual education, the church has opened its doors to help.  

Ward said the church is limited to serving 15 children, so it decided to offer assistance only to its members. Students can be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. and picked up at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for free help. They can bring their school devices and do their regular classwork at the church, with volunteers standing by to help. 

Looking ahead, Providence will be able to reach out to more families in the community with the recent addition of an associate pastor for family ministries. Cibele Santos was ordained and installed at the church on Sept. 6. The native of Brazil began working at Providence as a seminary intern about two years ago and was hired by the church after graduating. 

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, Providence has sought ways to continue, as it has done from the beginning, to cause God joy through mission and reaching out to the community through worship and fellowship, even if it is virtual,” Ward said.



Providence Presbyterian Church is located at 171 Cordillo Parkway on Hilton Head Island. The church offers an outdoor worship service at 8 a.m. and a 10 a.m. service in the sanctuary that can also be viewed online. For more information, visit or call 843-842-5673.