This past Sunday, local churches got creative and held their Easter services online due to COVID-19 outbreak.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Gov. Mike Parson have limited social gathering sizes since last month, and area churches have already been working to host online services during recent weeks.
The United Church of Christ of California had its services on YouTube. UCC pastor the Rev. Russell Cobb said the church had been streaming its services for pretty much the last month. Cobb said for last Sunday, they asked for members of the church to send in videos of their parts of the service.
"We had people that did their special (music) and they recorded it, and we included that in the service," Cobb said. "We had scripture readings done the same way. We also included probably about seven or eight greetings from people at their homes, that they recorded or sent pictures just saying 'happy Easter' and (that they're) looking forward to seeing everybody. We have been trying to use people outside so we don't have to be here in person but they can still be included in the service."
Cobb said the church has received a lot of positive comments about its online services. Cobb also said all of the worship services from the last four weeks are on the church's YouTube page. He said they have been making DVD copies of the services and delivering them to the nursing homes in town and to those who don't have the internet to further help the congregation adhere to social distancing guidelines. The YouTube page can be found by going to the church's website at calmo-ucc.org and clicking on the online worship link on the home page.
"Everybody would like to be of course in person and together, but people have really gotten encouraged. We try to do it at the same time and we do it live — we do livestreaming at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday," Cobb said. "I think people have appreciated that we have tried to keep everything as normal as possible. A lot of people have been very encouraged by it."
Cobb said by using YouTube, they are able to see how many people are watching the services.
"It will show you how many views that we have on there," Cobb said. "We are also able to tell how many computers are online at one time watching (the service). That has really given us a good feedback on how well everything is going. We have had really good numbers of people. It has been real helpful that way."
California United Methodist Church also streamed its Easter service but using Facebook's live feature instead. California United Methodist Church pastor the Rev. Eugene Moeller said the people who responded to the stream were thankful the church was able to have some kind of service.
"The people that responded on Facebook were very thankful that we could have something and thankful that they could feel at least somewhat connected to their church since we live stream from our actual church location," Moeller said.
Moeller said that with the stream, they were able to reach people who may have moved out of the area. He said the virus made the church accelerate its already existing plans to start doing a livestream.
"The one thing that COVID-19 did was it made us move faster and get a way of us live streaming going much quicker than what we were doing," Moeller said."We had talked about, as a church, of having some type of live stream to folks by Facebook or something for some time but never accomplished it."
Having a service online is a lot different than doing it in person, Moeller said. He also mentioned that with the services on the stream, they have to avoid having too much dead air time.
"When you have a reaction from the congregation, you will wait for the reaction to fade away or make it possible to speak again, and you don't have that in this situation," Moeller said. "At a normal service, you get some indication of what the congregation is feeling and you don't have that now. You need to be cognizant that you can't have a lot of dead air time with the live video when there is not a congregation around as well."