Follow-Up: Online Services Foster Hope, Connection, and Unity
By Rachel Eldridge
Churches have increasingly used livestreaming tools for holding services online as health guidelines limited the number of people gathering in one space. Church of God Ministries featured a different online church on social media each week throughout the COVID-19 quarantine, inviting the broader Church of God community to worship together as one movement. The results? Hope, connection, and a renewed sense of family.
New Beginnings Church of God in Albuquerque, New Mexico, digitally welcomed “brothers and sisters from throughout the Church of God” to its Facebook Live service on April 19. That Sunday, Pastor Richard Mansfield shared with the congregation about God’s Warehouse, the church’s offsite ministry that provides food, clothing, and recovery resources to those in need.
“A Church of God congregation from Tennessee was so moved that they sent an offering that will cover the rent for our God’s Warehouse homeless ministry for three months and then some,” said Mansfield. “Our God is faithful.”
Many who watched the New Beginnings livestream that day have continued to tune in before or after their own local congregation’s online service, reminding Mansfield and his flock that “we are part of a much greater church around the world.”
Pastor Erin Taylor at Alma Church of God, Michigan, whose church was featured on Mother’s Day, has also been encouraged by the growth and reach of livestreamed services. Local congregants are inviting others to church via social media, and in an uncertain time, more people are responsive to good news. Taylor said many people from the community and even from other states and countries have been joining for worship online.
Visitors from other countries include Daniel and Christy Kihm, Church of God missionaries to Europe and the Middle East. The Kihm family often virtually visits multiple churches in one Sunday now, sharing photos of “another Sunday in Corona Time” on their Facebook page. They have attended livestreamed services for Church of God congregations in Italy, Ukraine, Hungary, and across the United States to connect with the global church while temporarily housebound.
“A few of our supporting churches had online services that we could watch before the pandemic hit. But during the pandemic, most have offered a digital option,” said Christy. “It’s been great to ‘stop by’ and worship with so many churches that normally we might only get to see when we are on home assignment.”
Pastors noted that preaching to an empty sanctuary can be a challenge, and of course, congregations long to safely be together in person again.
“We all miss each other! And yet, we know that God is working for good in the midst of this interruption,” said Taylor. “No doubt that there are important kingdom things happening that we can’t yet fully see.”
Rachel Eldridge is a freelance writer who takes frequent walks to avoid Zoom burnout. She attends First Church of God in New Albany, Indiana.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.
*Feature (top) photo: The Kihms tune in to hear Pastor Emily Clark, Faith United Church of God, Grand Rapids, Michigan.