As the effects of COVID-19 continue to change the ways that New Orleans restaurants, schools, offices, and other businesses operate, communities are forced to find ways to work with evolving social distancing restrictions. Schools and workplaces have made the switch to virtual communication, restaurants are staying afloat by offering curbside pickups, and artists of all kinds are finding innovative ways to keep creativity and inspiration alive.
But pastors, churches, and congregations are winning their own battle against COVID-19, hosting online sermons, bible studies, and more, to keep their spiritual communities connected and supported during the most uncertain of times.
Churches Join the Virtual Community
Executive Director of Thrive NOLA and spiritual leader Reverend Chuck Morse is just one of many joining in this virtual movement, hosting weekly sermons every Sunday via Facebook Live. His sermons reach a large audience, and the Facebook Live feature allows his audience to comment in real-time, instilling a sense of connectivity among Reverend Morse’s spiritual community that can’t congregate due to social-distancing measures.
But these online prayer services have the potential to reach more than just his New Orleans community, with many of his sermons reaching over 200 views.
“These sermons are an expansion of my ministry. They can touch more people around the world, including my family members who don’t live in New Orleans,” says Morse.
Leveraging Expertise to Empower Communities
As more faith-based organizations and churches go virtual, Morse is hoping to empower communities who once struggled with rapidly-developing technology to take advantage of the resources that the internet has to offer.
“Many folks don’t believe they can do it. But they’re learning to use Zoom and Facebook as a way to connect, and it’s exciting to see,” he says. “Pastors aren’t perfect, and we have to be open to finding new ways to support one another. Many organizations are offering online tutorials to help folks learn how to use social media to keep their communities connected.”
Of course, going virtual comes with its own disadvantages. Like many others who rely on donation-based incomes, “Passing the basket” is the main way for spiritual leaders to both make a living, but also to pay the bills to keep their place of worship functioning. Some leaders are taking advantage of platforms like Youtube and Facebook Live, which have features that allow audiences to give virtually.
Many churches are also using their online platforms to keep their community in the loop about financial resources, grants, and small donations that can help faith-based organizations stay afloat while non-operational. Morse frequently uses Facebook to inform his network about grants available through Baptist Community Ministries.
As Morse works to keep his spiritual community positive and empowered during these tough times, he reinforces the idea of unity and support among his congregation in order to spread the word of God and continue to touch each other spiritually.
“We all want to come together, we all want to hug. But the spirit transcends the physical space. As a community, we must come together. We must be our brother and sister’s keepers.” he says.
Spiritual leaders making the switch to the online community can teach us important lessons about the power of personal sacrifice for the greater good, but also the importance of supporting and uplifting our communities during adversity. The surge in the virtual spiritual community is a testament to the great resilience and compassion that we can all employ as we work for a more thriving tomorrow.