A Washington D.C., rector catches the coronavirus after offering Communion to his congregants. Now, they have been asked to self-quarantine. A headline states that an out-of-the-mainstream Korean church’s practices have led to a hotbed of coronavirus cases since parishioners were made to sit cheek by jowl for hours on end.

How is a house of worship to carry on with songs, praises, visiting the sick and helping the poor when every surface, even face might offer a vector for infection?

With the government guidelines discouraging gatherings of more than 10 folks for the next seven weeks or more, many congregations won’t hold in-person services for the foreseeable future.

The answer for many houses of worship will be online streaming. We’ll walk through some of the simple steps you can take to get your messages online with a simple smartphone, along with some practices to avoid.

Although moving sermons online will be new to most, we’ve had virtual preachers on massive TV screens addressing congregations here at a number of multi-site megachurches. Clear Creek Community Church was a forerunner with its satellite assemblies hosting live music and audiences, but with the main Sunday message prerecorded and then shown on a stadium-sized screen.

At Friendswood’s New Hope Church, the preacher remains in Pearland but can be seen at front of the auditorium by videocast. So it is possible to stream sermons, but today’s effort will diverge since both of these pioneers had live audiences — a privilege that may become vanish over the next few weeks.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the Catholic Galveston-Houston Archdiocese told church leaders that, “Parishes, to the extent they are able, are to inform parishioners of the opportunity to view Masses either through network television or other live stream options over the internet.”

Churches mix age groups in ways that few other venues do. From newborn to 90s, parishioners can be any age. That’s something you wouldn’t see at a gym, service club or college. Hence the risk that a younger person could carry the novel coronavirus without symptoms but spread it across the older age groups with deadly effect.

Online makes sense, especially given advice like that offered by Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County local health authority and University of Texas Medical Branch professor.

“We do know social distancing helps reduce the risk of infection in the community the sooner you do it,” he said. “We want people to think through the particulars of their event. Do you have participants who are in an extremely high-risk group? Think about what the risk is to you and the elderly and high-risk people you may be around. You may not be at a high risk, but who are you around when you leave? The elderly? Those with compromised immune systems? We really want people to focus on the particular risk.”

So, how can you take your services online? Our Faith asked Philip Thompson, web strategy manager for The Gospel Coalition.

Our Faith: How hard is it to get my church online quickly?

Thompson: If you have a Facebook or Gmail account and a device with a camera, you’re nearly ready to go. Don’t overthink it for your first attempt. You can always do a test live-stream with the privacy as “private” or “unlisted” to make sure everything looks good.

Our Faith: Will it cost anything?

Thompson: If you already have a cell phone or computer with a webcam, and if you’re not trying to do anything fancy, then you’re ready to go without any additional costs. If you’re trying to use a higher-quality camera, better audio or input PowerPoint slides, then you’ll need to make some purchases. If you end up making some purchases, start small. Get some lighting or a mic that works with your cellphone. You don’t have to spend $1,000 to have a helpful and high-quality live-stream.

Our Faith: Do I need an expert?

Thompson: If you’re trying to include PowerPoint or multiple camera angles, you should probably find an expert. Short of that, let Google be your expert.

Our Faith: Where do I find information?

Thompson: Just a quick Google search on “how to go live on Facebook with an iPhone” or “how to live stream on YouTube with a Mac” will get you started. Watch a couple videos and read some of the step-by-step guides. Just be sure to read or watch resources produced in the last year because many things have changed about those platforms since they first launched.

Thompson’s full article on learning how to stream services can be found at thegospelcoalition.org. Of course, it’s an online resource for going online.

Next week in Our Faith: How to disinfect your house of worship.

Rick Cousins can be reached at rick.cousins@galvnews.com.

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