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Local churches look to livestreaming during COVID-19 pandemic

By: Ora Nelson

Churches in Andalusia have taken to Facebook’s video streaming capabilities to continue worship during this time of encouraged social distancing.

“We’re reaching a lot of people,” said Chad Middlebrooks, an associate Pastor at First Baptist Church in Andalusia. “We’re seeing [participation from] a lot of people that don’t normally go to church through this [Facebook Live].

“It’s going well,” said Brennan Peacock, Reverend of First United Methodist Church in Andalusia. “We got into it [Facebook Live] in February as part of our overall plan to increase the digital presence of the church. It was very fortunate since we are unable to gather. We typically saw about 40-50 watching a stream on Sundays during the service if they couldn’t make it to church. But just last Sunday, there were 450-500 interactions on the stream with maybe 200 of those being watchers.”

Both churches report an increase in watchers than previous streams and church attendance before precautions against COVID-19 were put into place.

“We have people tuning in from all over the world and are seeing numbers well into the two thousands,” said Middlebrooks.

“There are people from Singapore, countries in Africa, and places in Europe watching our live streams,” William Worley, Ministry Associate at First Baptist Church in Andalusia. “Pages, people, or groups on Facebook who host live streams are able to access demographics such as the country of watchers once streams are finished to understand and better connect with their audiences.”

“This [situation] creates opportunities to connect with each other,” said Peacock. “I’m encouraged by how the church is responding.”

Easter for 2020, scheduled for April 12, has been either pushed back to a later date or moved to an online service by many churches.

“There are several things in the works for Easter, but we’re praying that we’ll be able to gather by that time [April 12],” said Middlebrooks.

Peacock stated that First United Methodist Church is in a “wait-and-see” mode for Easter services.

“We are incorporating awareness of Lent and self-denial into our live streams in this season of distance and isolation,” said Peacock. “For Holy Week, it’s going to be harder to do some of those experiences not in person, but we’ll be doing our best.”

Neither church knows for certain when they will resume in-person church services and say they will “respond out of caution” to near-future situations.

“I think that this has made members appreciate their church family here [at First Baptist Church],” said Middlebrooks. “We do worship, have the praise band, the pastor preaches and leads prayer. He asks for input on the stream and watchers are encouraged to call in with prayer requests. I think that this has made members appreciate their church family here [at First Baptist Church]. It’s hard not seeing family for a while, and this stream can help them handle those feelings. If we can help any of the other churches with live streaming or setting it up, we’d be happy to help our brothers and sisters.

“I’m very proud of the community and how people are being considerate of their neighbors as we try to slow down the spread of the coronavirus,” said Peacock.