With a countywide shelter-in-place order keeping citizens home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, local churches are adjusting to an online existence and making the best of the unusual situation.
Several churches have already made plans to stream worship services online through at least April 5, including Temple Bible Church.
An update posted to the TBC website March 20 stated, “This is not only because we are following the direction given to us but also because this is a kindness towards one another. While kindness is not a foreign idea to those of us who follow Christ, the idea of ‘social distancing’ seems and feels foreign to people called to be together.”
The update also laid out plans for community worship for the next few weeks and encourages everyone to honor recommendations for preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Gary White, lead pastor at Foundation United Methodist Church in Temple, is continuing to send out daily devotional emails to his congregation, and the church is continuing with online worship.
He said the church also plans to celebrate communion Sunday, April 5.
“It’s a reminder of not only our connection with one another, but also our connection with all of those who have gone before us, our connection with all other Christians in the world and, most importantly, our chance to come and be a guest at the table of Christ,” White said.
He said he wanted to figure out a creative way to make communion available, since the church is meeting virtually, so he will have pre-packaged communion kits available Monday through Friday. People can sign up for a time to pick out kits for their families in 15 minute intervals in order to practice social distancing.
The kits will be consecrated and assembled by White, and will include the printed liturgy.
“And then on Sunday, April 5, at the conclusion of our online worship service we will have a full on communion liturgy so that we can all take it together,” he said.
White said online worship is a challenge, but also invigorating. The staff pre-record the Sunday service and release the video at 10 a.m., the traditional worship time. He said pre-recording gives the staff an opportunity to use the chat feature to interact with people as they are viewing it and experiencing it in real time.
“We never would have dreamed of the day where we would have to make use of that sort of technology, but it’s a real blessing that we have that at our disposal,” White said.
The Facebook premier of Belton Church of Christ’s past Sunday worship service had some people experiencing buffering issues. However the video streamed through a YouTube plugin on the church’s website seemed to work flawlessly.
“I don’t think it was just our church,” said Chris Woodrow, worship and spiritual formation minister. “I think Christians around the U.S. and in our area – there were so many people online streaming services that we overtaxed Facebook’s system.”
Woodrow said the plan is to continue online worship as long as the church can’t gather together.
“The system we’re using is a pre-recorded service rather than a live stream and I think that will be important to continue, especially as we’re becoming more restricted in the amount of people who can gather,” he said.
Woodrow said they are currently only allowed to have 10 people together working to stream a service, so pre-recording allows them to limit that even more and still have a worship experience. He said he’s seen other churches and ministers even recording on their phones from home when they need to.
“I think what people want to see is ... their church family,” he said, “and if we can do that with a polished video, great; and if we do that on our phones, I still think God is glorified.”