(April 10, 2020) In order to comply with Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home executive order and also ensure people are social distancing, a number of local churches have begun to hold their services online.
Keeping in touch with the community without any physical contact has become a new norm of sorts for the past few weeks, but some churches in Ocean City, Berlin and Ocean Pines want to still share the word of God despite their buildings being closed.
Ocean City Baptist Church, located on North Division Street, has been streaming live services on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook for two years already, according to Pastor Sean Davis.
“We have almost another congregation outside of Ocean City, because we meet so many people from around the world, that when they go to their homes, they can still connect with us through [Facebook],” Davis said.
The reception for the online sermons has been well received, he said.
“It’s been encouraging,” Davis said. “We miss being together. It’s not easy. I was upset … just thinking how much I miss everybody and miss seeing their faces and worshiping together, because it’s your family, that’s what we are. But we’ve [also] seen people who’ve never stepped foot in church watching online.”
The Facebook church service draws around 130-150 viewers every Sunday. Ocean City Baptist Church also has bible study on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. as well.
“Our faith teaches us to do private prayers, but it also tells us to come together in [difficult] times,” he said. “I think it’s amazing that we live in a time that this is not new to the world; a pandemic like this. The world has seen many other things like this before, but we have the technology nowadays to stay connected through the Internet, through the media that we have.”
Davis is encouraging the community to reach out and call their neighbors and elderly loved ones.
“It’s really encouraging to see the church really doing what the church is supposed to be doing during this time,” Davis said. “We’ve always told our people church is not the building, church is the people … this is the time to be the church.”
The church will be holding a Good Friday devotion online at noon as well as a special 10:30 a.m. service on Easter Sunday, both of which will be on Facebook.
For more information, call the church at 410-289-6573 or visit OC Baptist’s Facebook page.
First Presbyterian Church on 13th Street in Ocean City is also offering online services.
Rev. Dan McKenty began providing online worship services three weeks ago, and said viewers have been sharing the services and other prayers. Worship services take place on Facebook on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
“A lot of people wanted to hear a sermon about scripture and what’s going on today,” McKenty said. “We include some hymn so they can sing along at home. They’re comfortable with seeing me, and I’m sure they’re doing some of their own worship at home as well. We’ve had a lot of people that aren’t even members of the church, that aren’t regular attenders that have been tuning in, which has been encouraging.”
McKenty posts the service announcements on the organization’s Facebook page as well as reminders that its baby drive, “Operation Wee Ones,” is still actively collecting supplies such as diapers, formula, wipes, food and nonperishable items to help families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have seen a lot of community and church activity,” McKenty said. “I think we’re rediscovering the better angels of our nature. I saw on Facebook a quote that I liked that said, ‘The church is not empty. The church has been deployed.’”
The First Presbyterian Church will hold a Good Friday service at 7 p.m. on Facebook.
For more information, call the First Presbyterian Church office, Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon at 410-289-9340 or visit www.ocmdpresbyterian.org/ or the First Presbyterian Church Facebook page.
The Community Church at Ocean Pines, located at 11227 Racetrack Rd., is also providing online services.
Its first online service was held on Sunday, March 22, in the sanctuary. It was moved to the chapel the following Sunday for better sound quality. The services begin at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook.
“The first Sunday we were viewed by 983 people,” Rev. Dale Brown said. “We’ve been very blessed, very fortunate and we’ve connected people to electronic giving.”
The church also provides live praise music on Facebook on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., which is has been well received, he said.
In addition, Sarah’s Pantry will remain open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Little Lambs Learning Center has been designated as an essential workers’ daycare for those who still have to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s important to maintain and to delve into the resources that our faiths have to offer us, whether we are Jewish, Protestant, Catholic or whatever it is that we believe for all of us,” Brown said. “It’s important that we use those resources of faith, which are important and can sustain and strengthen and help us through this time and also keeping in mind that those resources call us not to be afraid, but to trust and to be hopeful and to continue to love and support one another regardless.”
Community Church will hold a Good Friday noon service, followed by another one at 3 p.m. Saturday’s service will be at 7 p.m. and the Easter Sunday service will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook.
In Berlin, SonRise Church at 10026 Main Street, has also seen success with online services. This upcoming Sunday will be the church’s fourth online prayer session. Though unlike the others, the church does not do a live service on Sundays.
“So many churches were going live on Facebook, and it was just incredible … the amount of volume on there [was so much] that a lot of the video quality software was affected because so many churches were doing online services,” Pastor Tim Robinson said. “But it was pretty cool to see how many more people were watching the services and tuning in, looking for that peace, looking for hope, despite everything that’s been going on.”
The church offers bible study sessions live on Facebook on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and a prerecorded Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. on the site as well.
“We have similar backgrounds on things that people are familiar with, almost like you’re still worshipping in person,” Robinson said. “You still have that relatable and comfortability with leadership that you’re used to, and you also have that platform so that the messages that are going out are very relatable to what’s going on right now, with what’s happening with this virus.”
SonRise church will be holding Easter services at three different times on Sunday: 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., which will be held live on its Facebook page.
Call 410-629-1901 for more information, visit www.sonrise.cc, or to see more live or prerecorded sessions visit the SonRise Facebook page.
Berlin First Baptist Church on Williams Street is also offering online sermons.
“We just started the Facebook live services the first week we weren’t able to meet as a congregation due to the coronavirus,” Pastor Brad Diehl said. “There are people from out of town and people from our church sharing the services, so it has a far broader reach than what a typical Sunday morning service would.
“The reception’s been good, but I can tell you our people are definitely ready to be able to meet together, and that’s one of the blessings of a regular Sunday service, is the presence of the other people of the church and the fellowship that you have,” he continued.
Hundreds of people have watched the videos that are posted on Facebook each week, he added.
“We believe that it’s very important that we are consistently proclaiming the word of God, [and] we believe that the fellowship of believers is very important to reaching that goal as well,” Diehl said. “And, while we’re not able to meet face to face, this continues that continuity of, ‘Hey, we’re still gathering together, there’s still a sense of unity, even though we are separated from one another right now.’”
Berlin First Baptist Church will hold an Easter service at 10:15 a.m., the same time as its other Sunday services.
For more information, message the Berlin First Baptist Church Facebook page or visit https://berlinfirstbaptist.com/.
Finally, there will be online Friday services offered by Temple Bat Yam, located on 11036 Worcester Hwy.
Services have been put online for the past three weeks, with numbers climbing each week. The first session saw around 30 viewers, then doubled to 60 the following week and the previous Friday there were over 80 viewers.
Prayers take place on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. through Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/590074213. The member ID needed to join the meeting is located on the organization’s website at https://templebatyam-oc.org/.
Though the Jewish religion can be strict about using technology on Passover, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, rabbis all over the world have stated it was acceptable to use in order to remain in contact with family, friends and other loved ones.
“Judaism says that the commandment to save a life takes precedence over any other commandment,” Rabbi Estelle Mills said. “Therefore, in order to save a life, you could disregard the other commandments to keep oneself safe.
“The ways we’re connecting, we’ve been able to provide support to many of our members who may live alone or in a nursing home as well as our families, who might be spread apart to worship together over the computer and its really maintained our sense of community among the older members of our [congregation],” she continued.
Adult education and other children’s activities are also available through Zoom.
For more information, visit https://templebatyam-oc.org/ or call 410-641-4311.