Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, many churches were already streaming their services through Facebook Live, Vimeo and other social media platforms.
It was put in place for out-of-town members, missionaries and shut-ins to stay connected to their church.
However, Jamus Edwards, pastor of preaching and vision for Pleasant Valley Community Church, never thought he’d be relying on the technology to reach his entire congregation.
He and his worship staff are now preparing for their second Sunday without a congregation. They will live-stream the service at 10 a.m. at www.facebook.com/pvccowensboro.
“Walking into the building Sunday morning was an eerie feeling,” Edwards said. “It was almost emotional really. The church is not a building. The church is the people of God. …So we haven’t closed the doors to our church because you can’t close the hearts of God’s people.”
Instead of hundreds of people filling the seats, church attendance has been reduced to about 10, largely consisting of pastors, musicians and tech members to run cameras and computers to ensure worship services go on.
Owensboro Christian Church, which is one of the largest congregations in the city, is preparing to join Facebook Live for the first time this Sunday.
Kegan DeWitt, OCC’s communications director, said the church was live-streaming its service but it was going through Vimeo only. OCC is planning three online-only services at 9:15 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“The good thing is we already had this stuff in place but it still looks different when you don’t have a congregation in the room with you,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt said OCC will also be using social media technology to reach its children, youth and homeschoolers while they’re unable to meet.
“…Obviously, and I think any church in town would say this, we feel gathering physically is best, but having this avenue now, especially in a crisis pandemic, we still have the opportunity to still care for people and inspire people.”
The Catholic Diocese of Owensboro said it will also be offering a live-stream of its Masses starting this Sunday at St. Stephen Cathedral.
The Rev. Jerry Riney, who pastors St. Stephen Cathedral, said Masses weren’t being live-streamed in the past but the capability was only added during a recent building renovation and safety upgrade.
“This is all new to me and we’re in some new territory these days,” Riney said. “...Wednesday and Thursday we did private Masses and it’s very awkward not having the congregation. Mass or the Eucharist is meant for the people of God and it’s meant for a congregation.”
Holy Week, which concludes with Easter on April 12, is also approaching for the Christian faiths.
Riney said he hasn’t “thought that far down the line” but will do what’s necessary to ensure Holy Week is celebrated.
“It would truly be sad not to be able to celebrate Holy Week with our congregation, with our assembly, with our community,” Riney said. “However, if we’re not able to do that, I suspect we will try to stream Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services.
St. Stephen Cathedral plans to live-stream a 9 a.m Mass, which will be available on the Cathedral’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ststephencathedral/live. Brescia University will also live-stream its 10 a.m. Mass.
Edwards said churches must be the example of doing the right thing during a time of a national emergency.
“...The church of Jesus Christ is called to love our neighbors,” Edwards said. “We just think by not gathering together, we are loving our city well. We’re not trying to preserve ourselves. ...It’s not so much we’re staying at home so we don’t get sick. We stay at home as Christians because we don’t want our neighbors to get sick.”
Don Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7299