Churches are being creative in finding ways to connect with their members during this time of physical distancing.
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church on Beulah Road in Vienna is no exception. The church now offers a recorded worship service that is on its YouTube Channel -- Holy Comforter Vienna, VA. A new service is uploaded every Saturday by 4 p.m. for viewing anytime. With this new form of access, Easter Sunday Service now has the capacity to be the most “attended” service ever.
Holy Comforter’s Rev. Ann Gillespie is used to speaking to the camera. She has an acting background and had recurring roles on Beverly Hills 90210 and Star Trek Deep Space. But for the Rev. Jon Strand, it has taken some getting used to. After three weeks of pre-recorded worship, he is getting more comfortable with the camera as well as recording prayers and meditations with his iPhone. “It can be challenging because we draw so much inspiration and energy by looking at the people in the pews and listening to the choir.”
The church’s music director, Dr. David Kelley, has now taken on the additional role as editor of the video footage for the weekly worship service. Choir members are recording themselves singing from home and other parishioners are recording the intercessory prayers and additional readings. Recently, since it wasn’t safe to distribute palms for Palm Sunday, parishioners recorded themselves waving branches to create a virtual procession into church.
Holy Comforter also is using Zoom meetings for some activities like Centering Prayer, Bible Study and Episcopal 101 as well as a virtual marriage retreat and having staff, clergy, and parishioners taking turns writing daily reflection emails with the theme “Faith in the Time of Corona”.
Their Youth Group and parents have teamed up to shop for those who cannot risk exposure in public places. They organized themselves and within 12 hours, 23 teams were ready to buy groceries, medicine, and whatever was needed.
Other staff, including pre-school teachers, are reading children’s books on video so the children can see a familiar face.
In addition, since the church parking lot is now empty on Sundays, the NOVA Central Farmers Market is using it as their new temporary location, supporting the local food supply chain.
The list of upcoming events and services are at HolyComforter.com.