Coronavirus Pandemic

We are at the beginning of a Coronavirus Pandemic which is  causing disruption to our daily routine and our lives as faith communities.

That’s for sure. Can’t miss it on the news? What do we do?

To use the an old phrase Keep Calm and Carry on… sort of… well maybe not.

This virus is highly contagious. The way it infects person to person is still being discovered. There is no vaccine, and no one has built up immunities.  Perhaps we cannot just carry on as usual. We do need to adapt in order to stay healthy, keep our loved ones and neighbors healthy and to help the health care system not be overloaded.

What do we need to do to adapt? Life still needs to happen. Work still needs to be done.

The Center for Disease Control ( CDC) has been publishing information and updates on their website to help keep us informed.

One way, according to the CDC ( and others) is to not be in places where we can be infected or infect others. For example- crowd events such as parades (no St. Paddy’s day parades), concerts, sports and other places where people gather.

Like church? Sunday morning or Saturday Evening worship services? Or something like that?

Yes, like that. As of early March 12, three state governments have encouraged church services not take place for at least 3 to 4 weeks. Other denominational leaders are encouraging each congregation to review and decide what is best for them.

What should we do?

This is a carefully discussed session decision. The moderator and session should be having this conversation now. There are many things to consider when looking at closing down a worship service for several weeks.

Let’s just say we have had that conversation (or will soon). We have decided not to gather in our sanctuary for a few weeks. But we don’t want to not be in worship together. What do we do?

Glad you asked because creative and alternative ways to worship have been popping up all over Facebook, twitter and my email.

Facebook live appears to be a strong contender for alternative worship.

What is Facebook live? Never heard of it.

Really? Facebook live is a feature of the Facebook social network that uses a camera on your computer or phone or tablet to broadcast in real time a video to your Facebook page.

Worship Times ( More on this service later) has a video on How to Embed Facebook Live for Video Streaming

You can also live stream on YouTube. 

Well okay that could be doable? What are some pros and cons to Facebook Live?

Pros for Live streaming Facebook or YouTube or other services

  • People can still participate though they are away from the actual worship space.
  • It is live so it is real time.
  • Great for people who have to have “social distance” because of the virus or other health related issues.
  • Doesn’t cost anything

Cons for live Streaming Facebook or YouTube or other services

  • It is sort of passive for the viewing participant. One-way communication. No real interaction between participants
  • You do need to have some technology such as good internet connection and a device. Though your mobile phone works just fine.
  • May not have great sound if speaker is too far away from the device.
  • Copyright issues (more on that later)

Things to consider

  • Not all participants (especially older members) have the technology to view a live stream.
  • The congregation may not have the technology or capacity to live stream. My son call this Technical Debt or Tech Debt ( and yes it is a thing)
  • Copyright issues
  • Remembering to turn on the live stream ( yes that happens more often than pastors are willing to admit)

What are some other options for alternative worship?

ZOOM

What is Zoom? Are you being serious?

According to their official site – Zoom Video Communications is a company headquartered in San Jose, California that provides remote conferencing services using cloud computing. Zoom offers communications software that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.

This sounds a little more complicated than Facebook especially for those who might be a little less tech savvy than the rest of the world.

Yes, this does take a bit more preparation and practice to provide this type of worship. To provide worship in on this platform does require the participants to suspend their “traditional” interpretation of worship and embrace a new way of expressing and experiencing the faith community worship.

Who does this?

Not sure how widespread this mode of participating in worship is used at this time. This is a great time to learn something new, to practice different forms of worship and to share with others.  Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, PCUSA pastor, hosted a webinar on Monday, March 7. He recorded the webinar and has provided a link.  He had many great ideas on how to use ZOOM or similar type platforms for worship.

What are the pros and cons of doing Worship by ZOOM?

Pros

  • It can be offered in real time and recorded
  • People can participate. Very interactive.
  • People can have to option of seeing each other face to face.
  • Not expensive. Prices start at $15 per month per account.
  • It is creative and new and can open new ways of being church

Cons

  • It takes practice. Someone needs moderate the technology
  • Not all congregation members have the internet speed or computer capability to make it work.
  • Congregational singing doesn’t work because of varying speeds of internet
  • Tech debt again

Things to consider

  • It does take practice and for some it is a steep (but obtainable) learning curve.
  • Try using Zoom for meetings or small group studies before jumping into a regular worship service
  • Practice makes perfect
  • Would be great as a “second” worship option.
  • Be creative with music and art

Both of these may or may not be doable but we should consider them. May take a bit of time. What should we do for this Sunday?

Currently the Presbytery Leadership or Staff are recommending that you have a discussion with the session about what is best for your congregation. Many pastors indicated today that they are going ahead with worship on Sunday and recommending that worshippers do what is right for themselves. One pastor shared that they are doing things to minimize touch places. An example is the outside doors will be propped open, they will not pass the friendship booklet, hymns will be printed and so forth. Small churches are going to encourage people to not sit close together.  Several will be recording the service and posting it on YouTube or their website.  At this point it needs to be the sessions decision. There will be a need to evaluate from week to week what will be the best way to worship together

You mentioned Copyright laws?

Yes, I did. Please be sure you are informed on copyright laws before going “live”.

This isn’t the last word, is it?

No, it isn’t. More information will be flowing over the next hours, days and weeks. Watch our Facebook, Twitter , E News and Webpage. We will do all that we can to keep you informed of what is happening in Newton Presbytery and the PCUSA concerning the Coronavirus Pandemic.