Virtual church: Christ Church United Methodist livestream draws hundreds

March 15, 2020
By Cathy Bruce

It wasn’t a typical Sunday worship gathering for the family of Ben Williams, a musician at Christ Church United Methodist in Louisville.

He and his wife, Lesley, were among relatives who gathered at the home of Williams’ parents, David and Susan Williams, to watch a livestream of the 11:15 a.m. service. After virtual church, the family celebrated Ben Williams’ birthday with lunch. (Lesley Williams is Benefits Administrator for the Kentucky Annual Conference.)

In a week where things moved at a rapid pace, Bishop Leonard Fairley and the Kentucky Conference, along with many other U.S.-based conferences, were tasked with making decisions that stayed true to our Wesleyan tradition of corporate worship and being mindful of those in our communities that may need the help and healing of the church.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended Wednesday that all churches in the commonwealth be temporarily closed. By Friday, Bishop Fairley and his Cabinet had asked that all churches in the Kentucky Conference cancel gatherings at their church buildings.

Christ Church, in the Heartland District, invited members, and any others that were interested, to join them as they livestreamed their usual 11:15 a.m. service. Christ Church, one of the Conference’s largest congregations, streams its services every week. The only difference is this Sunday, the senior pastor, Rev. Becki Curry, would only be joined by her associates, an acolyte, a few musicians and the technical crew.

The ministers followed what would have been their regular order of service for today with a very timely children’s moment by Rev. Leanne Hadley. She taught the children viewing at home that reciting “be still and know that I am God,” five times as they wash their hands will allow them to wash their hands for the recommended twenty seconds that can help ward off any viruses.

“This is kind of an exciting opportunity for us,” said Rev. Brandon Dirks, Minister of Small Groups. “Even though we can’t be physically together as a community, we can be together at least in spirit.”

So many churches were doing the same thing that the streaming service the church uses crashed. But Kim Keller, the church’s Communications Director, was ready with an alternative plan. Instead of streaming, Keller and her technical crew were ready to switch the feed to Facebook Live. However, they did record a high-definition version that is now available on their church website,

“We want them to be in relationship with one another even if that’s through technology,” said Rev. Patty Groot, Minister to Bridge Communities.

At one point the Facebook Live stream had more than 200 viewers, proving true what associate pastor, Jacob Cogman said: “What binds us is not necessarily the building but the blood of Jesus. Since that blood still has atoning power, we can still go forth in Jesus’ name.”

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