by Beverly Church
Michigan’s statewide ban on large gatherings isn’t keeping the Farmington area’s faith community from staying connected.
Three local congregations – Trinity Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Farmington – have all come up with creative ways to maintain a sense of community with their members.
Pictures in the pews
Trinity’s pastor, Julia Huttar Bailey, said on the first Sunday, the service was broadcast on Facebook Live. During the time for prayers and thanksgivings – which are normally spoken aloud — members were typing their prayers, and she was able to read them in real time.
“It gave us the feeling that we were gathered together,” she said.
Before conducting the service, Pastor Julia printed 8×10 photos of each member and taped them to the empty pews, carefully placing them in the spot where each member usually sits, which she said gave her the feeling of their presence. She then made a video of the pews and posted it on Facebook.
“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, you know just where I sit!’” she said.
Due to some technical issues with Facebook Live, Pastor Julia said future services will be broadcast using Zoom, which lets people to see one another and allows more people to get involved in the service. They’ve already used the platform to host coffee hours and other meetings.
“It’s so comforting to see one another’s faces,” she said.
Prayers on Facebook Live
At First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, members are connecting with a weekly podcast, which they can listen to during the regular service time.
Lorrie McVey, who is on the communications team at First Presbyterian, said the service is conducted by a core group of six church members, who get together (while using good social distancing practices, McVey notes) to produce the podcast. The service includes vocal and instrumental music, as well as readings and a sermon.
“It seems to be working well, and the feedback has been good,” McVey said. “I think they appreciate the ability to feel that they’re still worshipping together at the same time as their fellow worshippers.”
McVey said that about three-fourths of their expected Sunday attendance tuned into the podcast. And, considering that some share one computer, it may have been more.
In addition to the podcast, the church is using Zoom to conduct adult classes and has set up a private Facebook page with content for children and their families.
Stronger than ever
The Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington has also taken their weekly services online, posting videos on YouTube and the church’s Facebook page. They also have an online system in place for all members to share their “joys and sorrows,” which is a regular part of the weekly Sunday Service.
Rev. Leonetta Bugleisi said that, so far, the response has been great.
“Our church membership is 137, with an average of 60 people attending on Sundays,” she said. “Last week’s views of our internet service surpassed 400!”
Rev. Leonetta said she is working with the church’s Sunday Service committee and tech team to create mid-week videos that include story-telling and jokes. And the church’s religious education coordinator is reading stories and creating online classes for children and youth.
In addition to using the latest technology, all three churches are using more traditional ways to keep connect with their congregations, including email, phone calls, greeting cards and texting.
Rev. Leonetta said it’s important that faith communities stay connected and ensure that everyone is safe at home.
“We are people of faith, and we know that this will pass, and we will gather again soon stronger than ever,” she said.
Correction: The link to First Presbyterian Church was incorrect in the original version of this post.