This past weekend, much of the east coast was left staring out the windows at the result of Winter Storm Jonas. As the snow and freezing rain began to fall on Thursday evening in the mountains of North Carolina, church leaders all over the east coast began wondering if it was even worth the time to finish their sermon on 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 (I personally rarely trust snow predictions in NC, so my sermon was printed and in the folder before I finally gave in to the fact that I couldn’t even move my car).
Finally, early Saturday morning emails, Facebook posts, and notifications on news
channels came through as “All Activities Cancelled on Sunday” followed the name of each church. What happened next is what really grabbed my attention though. With each email and Facebook post came a link to the church’s website where one could find archived worship videos and sermon manuscripts. Union alum, Rev. Aaron Houghton (M. Div/ MACE, 2014), realized he wouldn’t make it to Ampthill Presbyterian Church for worship so he worked with one of the students from Virginia Commonwealth University’s UKirk ministry (behind the camera) where Aaron serves as Campus Minister, and Aaron’s brother (a fantastic musician) in New York to create a series of worship videos. Together, they took to social media and led #SnowChurch complete with gathering music, hymns, prayers, and the sermon… he even included instructions for cutting out snowflakes for offering!
As I looked at these and several other opportunities for worshiping from home when it wasn’t safe to be on the road, I was amazed at the creativity and passion that I found not just in the posts from the congregational leaders like Rev. Houghton, but also from those who took the time to watch the videos and respond. One family from Ampthill Presbyterian Church even posted a picture of the family gathered in the living room in their pajamas, following along with #SnowChurch.
If I am honest with you, I personally struggle worshiping through a video while sitting at home. It lacks the personal connection that feeds me each Sunday morning. That being said, I understand the need for it and have, at times, wished that my home congregation had a live stream each week (this would have helped greatly when I was in college and homesick!) For those who cannot leave their homes or beds, or those who cannot attend their home church because they are away for school or travel, these opportunities to be a part of worship at a distance are irreplaceable. This past Sunday when it seemed that no one could leave their homes, #SnowChurch fed not just the members of Ampthill Presbyterian, but also those who saw the videos being shared on Facebook.
After watching a few of the #SnowChurch videos, I began to think about the ways in which one might connect with a church community in a non-traditional sense. I had never heard of Ampthill Presbyterian until I began to see Aaron’s #SnowChurch videos on my newsfeed and decided to Google the congregation to learn a bit more about who was gathered together via social media that morning.
The 21st century has given us several options for ways to get word of our congregations and our ministries in front of the masses. These are just a few examples of how congregations gathered through the use of technology when they couldn’t gather with one another in person. Other congregations shared sermon manuscripts for members to read and others shared the bulletins so that members could “pray through” the bulletin. The Revised Common Lectionary selection on Sunday spoke of the Body of Christ– what better way to live that out than finding ways to gather with one another when the snow and ice kept us apart than taking advantage of our many technological resources?
How did you, or would, your congregation gather if they couldn’t gather in person,
continuing to worship as The Body of Christ?
Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
To view the #SnowChurch worship videos, visit Ampthill Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page. Each video is numbered, 1-7, so you can follow the worship service in order.