COVID sees churches in the Townships get creative

By Taylor McClure, Special to The Record
COVID sees churches in the  Townships get creative
Grégory Gémin, parish priest for Saint-Philippe de Windsor and the Église St-Francois-Xavier-de Brompton in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sherbrooke has been using the radio station at Saint-Philippe de Windsor to broadcast a weekly program. (Photo : Courtesy)

With the provincial government having banned all indoor and outdoor gatherings of people, churches in the Eastern Townships are coming up with different ways as to how to continue their services for their members and people beyond. From Facebook Live to radio and postal deliveries, institutions have had to come up with a host of new ideas to remain present during a difficult time.
Linda Buchanan, Minister for the Lennoxville United Church, told The Record that she decided to do Facebook Live broadcasts to stay connected with her church members as much as possible.
“The very first Sunday after the schools closed I did my first Facebook Live virtual worship,” she said. “We want to connect with as many of our members as possible and trusted that others would come and join in on the time we were already used to. I moved from a sanctuary to a virtual space.”
Although the experience for those “going to” her service might be one of “virtual space”, the physical space she records from is right in Buchanan’s home, which means that she needed to adapt what she had been previously doing at the church.
“Everything is completely different,” the minister added. “The order of worship service is different now than it was before, which changes my entire preparation approach.”
Despite these changes, Buchanan said the Facebook Live videos for the Lennoxville United Church have been well received and has gone beyond just members of the congregation.
“The first video attracted over a thousand views, which really threw me,” she said. “It’s not just regular churchgoers but members of the wider community of Lennoxville, Sherbrooke, Quebec, and even people across the country are tuning in.”
Buchanan holds her Facebook Lives twice a week on her personal Facebook page and they are also posted afterwards on the Lennoxville United Facebook page and website.
“On Wednesday morning we have midweek prayer and reflection at 10 a.m. and then we do another Facebook Live on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.”
She emphasized that there are other United Churches in the region taking a variety of different approaches.
“I know that some are using Zoom, which allows for different levels of participation than Facebook Live,” the minister said. “Other churches are doing written services and they are having them post delivered or having them dropped off at a distance.”
When asked why she thought it was so important to find a new way to continue church services and to make these changes, Buchanan emphasized that in general, change has been a long time coming for these institutions.
“We are almost reinventing ourselves daily; church has been needing to do that and COVID-19 is forcing that,” explained Buchanan. “Having so many people tune in to these different virtual spaces, it’s showing there’s a need, a desire, a draw. The church has often been there in difficult times to just accompany people through the struggle and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Using the advanced technology available to her was the United Church minister’s choice of way to go.
“It was a tool that was available to do the thing that we always do,” she said. “Our call is to love uncontrollably and unconditionally because we are all God’s children and we can’t do that in any other way right now so we used all the tools at our disposal.”
While everything is new and different now, Buchanan holds an interesting perspective on the many changes being done.
“I do think that new things are happening and I’m grateful to be seeing new things happening in the midst of difficulty, challenge, and struggle. I am blessed to experience both sides.”
Buchanan is not the only one trying new things. Grégory Gémin, parish priest for Saint-Philippe de Windsor and the Église St-Francois-Xavier-de Brompton in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sherbrooke has been using the radio station at Saint-Philippe de Windsor to broadcast a weekly program.
“The Church of Windsor has the capacity to put it on the radio that reaches the perimeter of Windsor and a little bit of the surrounding area,” he said.
According to Gémin, the radiobroadcast can reach about 3,000 people in Windsor and between 4,000 to 5,000 people total.
“This radio is in our church and it is uniquely for our celebrations,” he shared.
During a time when his parishioners are in confinement, Gémin, a self-described entertainer, created what he described as a “dynamic” and “lively” five day program for them to enjoy. “It’s not just mass but it’s entertainment.”
From Monday to Wednesday and then from Saturday to Sunday, things like mass, different sounds of music, angelus, lauds, teachings, updates, chapel, and various forms of entertainment, such as jokes and singing, will be broadcasted for people on 88.1 FM.
“It was a way for me to keep an effective link with them, to nourish their spiritual life, and to continue to build the fraternity.”
Saint-Philippe de Windsor has always broadcasted mass over the radio for those that couldn’t attend but this program provides more variety which seems to be sitting well with people.
“They really enjoy it. Before the confinement, mass was always on the radio for the people that couldn’t come. With the confinement, there’s more than just mass. They appreciate it because they have more than before. We have everything now.”
To view the full program, you can visit https://paroisse-saint-philippe-de-windsor.jimdosite.com.

Published in the Monday, April 6 edition of The Record.

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