Churches go virtual during pandemic

Local religious leaders turn to Facebook Live, Zoom to connect with parishioners

Churches in Camas and Washougal are changing their service models in the wake of the spread of COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by a new coronavirus.

In response to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s recent declarations that severely restrict in-person gatherings, local religious organizations are livestreaming their services on their websites and Facebook pages and encouraging parishioners to meet in small groups via online platforms.

“We’re doing church a little differently these days,” said Ellen Scott, the pastor of administration at Camas’ Journey Community Church.

Journey will livestream its services for the first time on Sunday, March 22, on its Facebook page and journeycc.org/live at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.

“Our tech guys said that they’re taking the work that they’d usually do in a year and cramming it into one week,” Scott said. “People are working long days and nights to get this going to help foster our community the best that we can. I think the livestream will help tremendously.”

Starting on Sunday, March 29, the church will give out prepackaged communion elements, which can be picked up at the church and used during the services. The church is also encouraging its groups to meet through online platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.

“We’re trying to come up with some creative ways to maintain a sense of community and family,” Scott said. “(Not having a service on March 15) was hard for us. It felt odd. Our church is all about community, (and the spread of COVID-19) has shut down our ability to gather together. Even our smallest prayer groups attract upwards of 25 people, and that well exceeds the current recommendations.”

Journey, located at 304 N.E. 4th Ave. in downtown Camas, is also trying to connect with the community at large, offering the services of its leadership team members to help people in need with grocery deliveries, prescription pick-ups and other practical needs. 

“We want to be the hands and feet of the greater community, if you will,” Scott said. “We love our downtown community, and we want to do whatever we can to help support it during these hard times. This has reminded all of us about how little control we really have over our circumstances that affect our present day and future. As a faith community, we want  to encourage our friends and neighbors to have hope that we will get through this. This, too, will pass. Hope is what we want to cling to right now.”

‘We want to keep the proper perspective’

Bethel Community Church in Washougal is taking similar actions.

Recorded services will be posted on 9 a.m. Sunday to the church’s Facebook page, which will also feature five-minute devotional readings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Bethel leaders are also reaching out to church and community members who may require assistance with food delivery or other items of need.

“We haven’t had fellowship together as a church family for a while,” Bethel pastor Rich Blum said in a video posted to the church’s Facebook page on Thursday, March 19. “Our small groups aren’t happening right now. We’re not doing services. It’s different. It’s difficult. But we’re putting things online and will be trying to communicate (with our parishioners) the best that we can. We’ll get through this. It’s going to be fine. We do not have a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. We want to keep the proper perspective. That’s really important during these times when people are fearful and panicked.”

Blum said that he had a conversation with a woman after BCC’s last in-person service on Sunday, March 15, that “stuck with (him) and haunts (him) during this time.”

“I thanked her for coming to church. I hadn’t seen her for awhile, so I said, ‘Hey, it’s really great to see you,’” Blum said. “She told me something that was profound in that moment. She said, ‘I’m not afraid of the coronavirus. I’m afraid of isolation.’ We don’t want (people) feeling isolated. We are here as a church family.”

Churches going online

Here’s a list of other local churches that are broadcasting their services:

Northwest Gospel Church, east Vancouver: livestream at nwgospel.com/live, 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday

Radiant Church, Camas: livestream on Facebook, time TBD Sunday

Warehouse Church, Washougal: recorded service posted to wcchurch.net

Activate Church, Camas: livestream on Facebook, 10 a.m. Sunday

Gateway Church, Washogal: recorded service posted to gatewayweb.org

New Horizons Church, Washougal: livestream at youtu.be/aaiF09tcGlQ, 11 a.m. Sunday

Riverside Seventh-Day Adventist, Washougal: livestream on Facebook, 11 a.m. Saturday

Camas Church of the Nazarene, Camas: livestream on Facebook, 10:45 a.m. Saturday

The River Church, Camas: livestream at theriverchurchnw.com/live, 6:45 p.m. Saturday

Zion Lutheran Church, Camas: livestream on Facebook, 10 a.m. Sunday

Camas Friends Church: livestream on Zoom, 10:45 a.m. Sunday

 

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