The majority of churches in Southern California have shuttered their doors after recent government recommendations to not congregate in groups larger than 10. Pastors and priests now find themselves in the unique position of delivering a sermon to an empty room, while church members watch from home. Many of them are using these virtual services to stay connected with their congregation during a time when many people rely on their faith for comfort.
On a regular Sunday morning, Will and Sheila Reusch would be at Media City Church in Burbank with their family. Now, they log on to the church’s Facebook page each week to find comfort during these uncertain times.
“We need it right now. We need it more than ever,” Sheila Reusch explains.
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The Reusch’s watch service together and interact with other church members during the live broadcast. That’s something they say makes them feel even closer with fellow church members.
“Typically we go to church and we have our hands in the air and we’d sing. And we’re still doing that. But now there’s another element and it’s clicking like and clicking that little heart,” Sheila says. “So when I see the swell of hearts rise up on the side of the screen, I recognize each and every one of those hearts as a human being. That’s a real heartbeat worshiping along with us.”
Media City Church has been open since 1926. Pastor Billy Calderwood says they still offer two Sunday services online, with praise and worship. He says the hardest part has been staying connected with more vulnerable church members. So they started a program that could help.
“I know we’re not the only church that has moved everything to completely online, but keeping the connection with people was important to us,” Calderwood says. “Right away we started communicating across our social media platforms our Need a Hand, Lend a Hand lend initiative. So if you’re part of the vulnerable population and you need someone to run to the store for you or go to the pharmacy just let us know, we’ll hook you up with somebody that is offering to lend a hand.”
Pastor Billy says it’s a skeleton crew inside the church on Sundays, and he’s getting used to preaching to an empty room. He feels that if anything good has come out of this situation, it’s that the church and the community are actively working together to stay connected.
“People are starting neighborhood networks wherever they live. We’re a multigenerational congregation so we have a lot of people who have been going to this church since the 1950s. And they aren’t necessarily on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. So it’s been a lot of phone calls and checking in on people So I think in a strange way, it’s actually strengthened the bonds within our church because it’s mobilizing people to care for people.”
And whether people watch in person or online, Pastor Billy says the message is the same.
“Our mission doesn't change, just because of whatever is currently in the headlines or whatever we’re facing culturally together as a society. We just adapt. Communicating good news to people. Keep people encouraged. Keep people focused on the things that matter most. And keep people reminded that God is for them and God is with them.”
For more information about MCC and their programs visit mediacitychurch.com.