Virtually, the Real Thing: First Online Adventist Church Established
- NEC’s first online church, Living Manna, will still have church elections, give tithe and offerings.
- Living Manna will also operate seven days a week through varied online programming addressing daily living, finances, mental health, and more.
- “I don’t think [Living Manna] will be poaching members from our brick-and-mortar churches,” said Nicardo Delahaye, NEC associate secretary.
16 February 2022 | From the Atlantic Union Gleaner:
The Northeastern Conference (NEC) Executive Committee made conference history by establishing its first virtual church on Feb. 1, 2022.* Ivor Myers will serve as pastor of The Living Manna First Online Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“The pandemic has taught all of us some lessons, one of them being that we can have church while we are at home. There are many people who we will be reaching through this virtual congregation that we would not reach otherwise,” said Abraham Jules, NEC president.
As a virtual church, Living Manna is intended to operate in the same manner as a church with members occupying a physical building, including having church elections and submitting tithes and offerings.
Living Manna members will utilize Adventist Giving online to return tithe and give offerings. As a virtual church, Living Manna will also operate seven days a week through varied online programming addressing daily living, finances, mental health, and more.
Myers previously pastored the Campbell church in Campbell, California, U.S. During the pandemic, as many churches moved services online, Myers changed the way he did things with the online audience tuning into the Campbell church’s weekly services. As he interacted with viewers during his live online presentations, he noticed a significant increase in the reach and size of his online audience.
“We were communicating directly with them. We saw their comments come up and responded in real time. That ended up being a real blessing,” said Myers.
Myers approached Northeastern Conference with the idea of forming a virtual church. “The difference between streaming services online and forming a virtual church is that the people online are not on the outside looking in; they are not just joining a service; they are the service,” explained Myers.
The NEC administers 176 churches and 15 parochial schools within the states of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States.
The 200 churches, located primarily within the urban centers of the cities within the Conference territory, comprise a membership totaling 60,000 with a congregational demographic make-up of Afro-American/Caribbean, Hispanic, Haitian, Portuguese, Ghanaian and Nigerian members.
However, Myers will be pastoring the online church from a completely different area of the country. Myers and his wife, Atonte, currently live in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S., where their ministry includes serving at Oakwood University. Atonte Myers is a licensed family therapist and will serve as the school’s licensed mental health therapist, and Ivor Myers will serve as head dean for the freshman men’s dormitory.
When asked about possible impacts a virtual church may have on members choosing to support a virtual church and not attend their local church, Jules was not worried.
“I have always said that if a pastor is scared about losing members to any other congregation, any other preacher, or any other establishment in town, you should lose them,” said Jules. “If you are doing what is right and people still leave, it is a free country. You do your best to minister.”
Nicardo Delahaye, NEC associate secretary, said he thought the online church would cater to a different audience; a different demographic.
“I don’t think [Living Manna] will be poaching members from our brick-and-mortar churches. If anything, [Myers] may supplement their religious content and religious diet, but I don’t think he will be necessarily detracting from them,” said Delahaye.
Delahaye said that many members that do attend a brick-and-mortar church probably do so because they appreciate the history of their church, the fellowship, and the social structures that connect them to one another. He noted that a possible challenge for the virtual church could be getting the congregation to see themselves as a system.
“Online church isn’t for everybody, but it is for some, and that number of people is pretty big,” said Myers. “There are some people who won’t walk into a church building, but they will watch online. We don’t want to come off as competition or a threat to any church. That’s why our emphasis is not on moving Adventist members into Living Manna but on getting new members who are not already in our churches. Hopefully, we will also help fill other churches.”
Jules is excited about the new endeavor, calling it a “novel concept.”
“I have learned in my life and my ministry that you must try some new things so you may meet and reach [other] people for Christ,” said Jules.
*At the time of publishing, the website was still under construction.
This article has been edited by AT staff.
(Photo: Ivor Myers will be the pastor of the first online church of the Northeastern Conference, The Living Manna First Online Seventh-day Adventist Church. Photo via NEC Facebook page.)