Local churches utilizing social media, streaming, video conferencing platforms to stay connected with members
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Churches in Sioux Lookout have refrained from gathering physically for weekly services due to the Ontario government’s Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which restricts social gatherings of more than five people.
During this time, Sioux Lookout churches have been using online resources and platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom, which is a platform for video and audio conferencing, to host weekly services online and stay connected digitally with their congregations. Churches have also used email and phone communications to check up on members of their congregation.
Pastors and members of churches in Sioux Lookout informed The Sioux Lookout Bulletin of how community members can access weekly services and online resources.
“We’re doing livestreams via Facebook, and it’s been a great way to stay connected… Just go to our Facebook page, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, like it, and you can tune in at 10:30 on Sunday mornings. There’s a kids puppet show at 10 a.m., so that’s a pre-recorded thing we show as well. That’s been very popular for the kids to stay connected hearing their story of the week. It’s an interactive livestream, and we chose that platform so people can respond throughout the service. People can comment prayer needs, praises, or things that are happening in their lives throughout the week,” said Nate Hochstetler, Pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.
“We’re also encouraging church members to stay connected with each other. We use Zoom meetings to have weekly get-togethers to check up on each other and encourage each other. It’s been a really good way for us to stay connected, support each other, and help each other out during this time,” he said.
“We’ve been connecting with the congregation via phone, making those phone calls to our church family. We’re doing an online service that’s recorded and put out (online at www.thenewlife.ca) on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, along with kids programs Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. For our bible study, we’re using Zoom,” said Mark Barrett, Lead Pastor at New Life Assembly.
“(Pastor) Steve is doing youth Wednesday night and Friday nights using Zoom. We’re having prayer meetings as well via Zoom,” he added.
“On Sunday’s we are broadcasting live on YouTube, and we send out a link to that YouTube feed to our congregation and people are able to clink on that link. We are also posting that link on our Facebook page (Calvary Baptist Church Sioux Lookout), so people are able to access the services online that way,” said Carter Krahn, Senior Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.
“How we’re connecting in other ways is we’re posting videos on our church Facebook page and giving regular updates there on anything that’s changing or just videos of encouragement, so we’re reading some scripture and giving some clarity towards those scriptures... We have designated call lists to leadership in the church and we’re calling around to all of our congregation on a weekly basis,” Krahn continued.
“We have a team that leads our church, and each member of that team is supposed to be contacting 10 to 12 people on our parish list by phone just to check in with them to see how they’re doing. We’ve also been meeting via Zoom for bible study. Each and every evening we are welcome to join the Anglican United Church Facebook service in Ignace, and anybody would be able to join that. We’ve had a few connections through our diocese website, rupertsland.ca, and they had services all during Holy Week that anybody could join through that website. Sunday morning at 10 a.m. our Bishop does a service, so we’ve communicated via our parish email group. We remind them each week that service is available at 10 a.m. Through our Facebook page (St. Mary's Anglican Church, Sioux Lookout) and through email we’ve been advising people of that service,” said Muriel Anderson, churchwarden at St. Mary’s Anglican Church.
“There are so many masses that are recorded on television or on YouTube. There are so many of them so, to give them a variety of choice, we are advising them to tune in to these masses being recorded around the world. We are also staying connected through phone (737-3760), email (email@example.com), and Facebook (Sacred Heart Parish, Sioux Lookout),” said Father Stephen Chilaka, Pastor at Sacred Heart Church.
“When we decided not to meet for worship, and then of course the province advised no public gathering a few days later, we already had a schedule of people planning to lead worship over the next few weeks, so they continue to prepare the worship with prayers, hymns, readings and a sermon and children's time. Once all this is ready we email it to everyone we have email for and hand deliver to few who do not. We have looked for YouTube videos for the hymns and usually manage to find something lovely. We add some pictures, as we had been using PowerPoint for the services before and those had pictures throughout the service. This Sunday (April 19), the person leading worship has figured out how to tape himself speaking and loading this onto YouTube, which is great. We are still providing the written version for those without internet access,” said Aileen Urquhart, St. Andrew’s United Church member.
“The United Church is also posting various on-line-live-streamed services and we let people know about these as well. But because some of our congregation are not able to connect through internet, we feel it is important to provide a weekly written service. We try to do a weekly post on our Facebook page (St. Andrew's United Church - Sioux Lookout) to let people know about the worship service coming up and invitation to be in touch… Even though our congregation is mainly older people, we are getting quite adept at technical things like Zoom, and the Board held its meeting this month through Zoom,” said Urquhart.
“We are fully online, so we’re using the Zoom platform on Sabbaths to broadcast our service. We have our members connected by Zoom in addition to folks who now have the opportunity of connecting with our service from elsewhere. We have a group of members who live in Ignace that would normally come over every other week, or every two weeks, because of the distance, especially in the winter-time, but now they’re able to join every Sabbath because we’re on the Zoom platform. In a sense, bar not being physically present with each other because there’s nothing like that, it’s actually a wonderful blessing that we’re able to have everyone together whenever we assemble,” said Garth Geddes, Pastor at Sioux Lookout Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“We’ve been sharing the Zoom link through our Facebook page (Sioux Lookout Seventh-day Adventist Church) and our website (siouxlookouton.adventistchurch.org). We’re about to launch a Revelations seminar… We’re getting ready to launch that seminar on the first Saturday in May, and that will be available online. For additional information, people can call me at 738-1280,” said Geddes.
Krahn said Calvary Baptist Church has been receiving donations of non-perishable food items, along with essential items like toilet paper. He said the church has been distributing items to families and community members that can’t access those resources.
“We’ve had some (donations), and we’ve been able to distribute some of those products already… We still have some non-perishable items and, believe it or not, we even still have some toilet paper. We are still receiving and connecting with people… As things progress, I think that’s when we’re going to see more people laid off and a greater need for this service. We’ve handed out some stuff, but we look forward to being able to help in the days to come,” he said.
Krahn said people can call the church at 737-3293 to provide donations, as well as access donations. He said the church is willing to arrange donation pick-ups on doorsteps to encourage people to stay in their homes.