Instead of greeting other congregants with handshakes and hugs, congregants throughout the city have been meeting virtually for church services every week. For some churches, that won’t change, even as congregants fill their sanctuaries once again.
While many people are looking forward to “getting back to normal,” several churches plan permanently some COVID-19 changes such as livestreaming into their weekly service.
Since the pandemic began, New Mission Church has streamed its services online via Facebook, and its attendance has grown. Pastor Ruben McKenzie plans on keeping the new digital component after the restrictions on large gatherings are lifted.
“It’s been very responsive and productive,” McKenzie said. “We plan on continuing this for now and in the future.”
And while McKenzie said there are pros and cons of having church online as opposed to having congregants physically in the church, he sees it as an opportunity to reach more people.
“The [virtual] services give people access to the word of God, and from the comfortability of their homes,” McKenzie said. “A lot of people who didn’t go to church before the virus started now have a lot of questions about why and want to learn more about God. With online services, it’s a little easier, I think.”
Dawn Coons has a preexisting condition that can sometimes make it difficult to leave the house. After her church closed last winter, Coons has been tuning into virtual services from several different churches. While there are some downsides to virtual church, Coons sees the benefits for those in high-risk categories.
“It makes it a little harder to focus because you’re just sitting in front of another screen without actually being able to feel the atmosphere in a sanctuary,” Coons said. “But it’s still a blessing for people more at risk.”
In a previous interview with the Recorder, Pastor Reginald Fletcher of Living Word Baptist Church indicated his church will continue to stream its services, and he has seen more curiosity about his church after they began streaming services online.
“It’s definitely a silver lining,” Fletcher said. “They ask ‘Who is this God that you are serving in spite of what we’re going through?’ … There’s a lot of questions being raised, and it’s an opportunity to share our faith and be a vehicle to let people know you can see God in different ways.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.