27 March 2020 |
Many churches and pastors have tried to preach online during the past two weekends of the COVID-19 shutdown, sometimes with disappointing results. But a group of pastors in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area are managing their online church services in a unique way. Rather than each pastor’s streaming his own Sabbath services, three pastors (Sheldon Bryan of Milwaukee Central and Southside churches, Myoung Kwon of Waukesha and Milwaukee Northwest churches, and Zack Payne of the Raymond, Racine and Kenosha district) teamed together to create one multi-district online church.
The three are taking turns each Sabbath morning addressing all of the members in all of their district congregations, using Zoom, on youTube. Writes Pastor Zack Payne, “If you’re grieving the loss of church due to quarantine, grieve no more: we’re doing church right here. In many ways, we’re doing it better than ever.”
Also, each weekday, they’re providing short worship talks twice a day using Facebook live on the Greater Milwaukee Adventist Fellowship Facebook page, for which they’ve enlisted the help of fellow pastors from around the Wisconsin Conference.
Often congregations, even in the same community, are quite separated from one another, and function more as rival tribes than cooperative fellow Christians. These pastors hope that this online community will add a new dimension to Adventist fellowship in their region lasts beyond the shutdown.
How did this start?
Zack: Sheldon and Myoung and I are not just colleagues but also friends, so when all of this started going down with the closure of churches, we immediately got on a group call and started planning. We hit the ground running and just haven’t stopped. We presented this vision to our churches, who are participating as they are comfortable. We’re nearing 500 members in the group, so there’s definitely been success in community building.
What do you hope to get out of this? What could it portend for the future?
Zack: I think this will continue to be a tool we’ll utilize long after we’re able to come back to our churches. All of our churches are now subscribed to Zoom (hello, remote board meetings!), and many church members who weren’t into social media now have Facebook profiles. We’ll be able to communicate at lightning speed with three districts full of church members, and potentially leverage a large base of volunteers much easier than we could in the past. It’s created a channel of communication much stronger than sending a bulletin insert to each other’s secretaries. Now we can reach all (or at least many) of each other’s church members instantly. I think it has huge implications for making big events happen in our area in the future.