Local churches find ways to worship
May 14, 2020
Local church leaders have been embracing new technologies to bring messages of comfort to parishioners who are longing for communion with their church family while staying home to protect them during a pandemic.
Ken Cummings, pastor at River of Life Assembly of God in Cathlamet, is enjoying the challenge, learning how to use Facebook Live, Zoom, and more to keep his church members engaged and together, even if it is from home, in front of their computers.
“We’re all getting a crash course in necessary technology to keep this going,” Cummings said. He has been getting assistance from some tech savvy people through the Assembly of God’s network, and meeting each week via Zoom with three other pastors in the Cathlamet area who are supporting each other and discussing ways to help the community at large.
Cummings delivers a sermon every Sunday on the River of Life’s Facebook page, and later uploads the video to their Youtube channel, where it can be watched any time.
The Easter video had 500 views, which Cummings was tickled to see. He knows that some members of their church family have been holding watch parties, where they watch the sermons together, from their respective homes.
They hold a bible study using Zoom every Wednesday, and his wife has been reaching out to the youth using Facebook and group messaging using the messenger app. She’s also visited some who are struggling at home, while maintaining a safe distance.
Another Assembly of God in the region held a virtual Easter egg hunt, which was very popular, even amongst the kids in Wahkiakum, according to Cummings.
“The people in the church community have really stepped up,” he said.
While online attendance might be up, not everyone has internet access, so the Cummings are reaching out to parishioners the old fashioned way, by phone.
For more information on their services, go to their website at rolcathlamet.org
Jeff Driscoll, pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Puget Island, is one of the church leaders that has been joining Cummings each week via Zoom to discuss how to serve the community. They are also supporting each other.
Pastoral care, he calls it. We could all use a little of that care right now, and Driscoll is using technology, and a sense of humor to deliver it.
He described his process to record the weekly sermons: the awkwardness of his iPhone, tripod, and more importantly the irreverent mix of clergy collar and pajama bottoms.
Driscoll records his sermon late in the week, and it is released in the earliest hours of Sunday morning on the church’s website, cathlametlutherans.com.
A talking dog named Ollie is giving sermons for the younger set as well. It turns out the kids aren’t the only ones watching.
“They’re more popular than my sermons,” Driscoll laughed.
Like Cummings before him, and likely every other pastor in Wahkiakum, there are members of their respective churches who are unable to stream videos because they either have poor internet service or no service at all.
So Driscoll has been transcribing his weekly sermon. A copy can be picked up at the church, but he’s also willing to deliver to people who are stuck at home.
He’s using every method he can to reach out to people, whether it’s on a computer or by phone.
“A lot of people are lonely, and long to get back into communion with each other,” he said. “It’s a common response. A large part of being in the body of Christ is gathering together. Online sermons and phone calls don’t compare with being able to sit together and share.”
St. Catherine Catholic Church, as well as the larger Catholic community in the state of Washington, has gotten up to speed pretty quickly with the use of technology, according to Deacon Fred Johnson. Father Bryan has been live-streaming a mass on the St. Rose Catholic Church Facebook page for all their parishioners, and videos are being uploaded to Youtube and Vimeo, where they can be watched at any time. There are also other shows available on Eternal Word Television Network.
Still, it’s frustrating and lonely for parishioners, who want to gather together and celebrate communion, a very important part of their weekly mass, Johnson said.
Drive up services are off the table right now, because the church does not want to endanger anyone. In the meantime, all the bishops in the state have been in contact with the governor to discuss what they can do to bring everyone back into fellowship while following state guidelines.
Meanwhile, not everyone has access to good internet service, so staff at St. Rose have been picking up the phone to check in on registered parishioners, Johnson said.