Preaching from the pulpit ... online

Photo courtesy of Gregg Nydegger

Photo courtesy of Gregg Nydegger

“It was very strange preaching to an empty room. Part of preaching is seeing how people react and sometimes hearing a word or two of feedback during the sermon.” — Gregg Nydegger of Christ’s Church at Monticello.

MONTICELLO — Community is important and ever-present.

Yet when Gregg Nydegger looked up from the pulpit Sunday while speaking in Christ’s Church in Monticello, he saw just one person — his wife, Barbara Ann.

She held a recording device so that Nydegger’s message was later uploaded to Facebook, both his page and the church’s, available to anyone in the CCM family.

“What a difference a week makes,” he told the Herald Journal. “When the threshold was lowered to 10, we cancelled (live) services … and will wait to see how this goes.

“I’ve been recording my sermons and uploading them to Facebook on Sunday afternoons anyway, so that’s what I did last Sunday.

“We encouraged our members to hold their own private worship time on Sunday, and to take the Lord’s Supper on their own. I’ve heard several encouraging comments from our own members, but also from some who attend elsewhere.”

Nydegger joked he missed out on the doughnuts, but noted a feeling of emptiness because of, well, the empty room.

“Part of preaching is seeing how people react and sometimes hearing a word or two of feedback during the sermon,” he said. “It was also quite different not moving around as much and looking from side to side, but predominately being focused on the phone and tripod.”

Ian McMillan agreed. The pastor at First Baptist Church in Monticello conducted a virtual service via Facebook Live. Like Nydegger and others who reached out to the Herald Journal, FBC has had the setup for streaming and posting online services for months. Part of it helped eased McMillan and the community that services would still take place. But having a barely-there audience was “odd” for McMillan.

“Some who watched thanked us and commented to us throughout the service,” he added. “I know that we cannot reach everyone in our church this way as many do not do much with computers, but at least it is something to keep many people connected during this time.”

Aside from Facebook, which stores the video even if it’s streamed through Facebook Live, McMillan started a YouTube page for the church as well.

“Both Facebook and YouTube allow you to do this free of charge, so that really helps out a good deal,” he said.

Monticello Christian Church saw more viewers via Facebook and YouTube than an average in-person attendance, according to Pastor Chris Dodson. Some views weren’t in the time frame of normal service hours, but the majority was. Viewer comments were allowed and acknowledged live.

Many churches within the county, from Brookston to Buffalo and Wolcott to Idaville, utilized online broadcasting options. Many also had links to daily devotion, or email signups for them, hymnals, lessons, giving financial aid to the church, communion, children’s services/ministry and contact information.

Father David Rasner, of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church, wrote a message to his parishioners March 19 that suggested several avenues to obtain continual spiritual guidance in lieu of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order. Other churches have posted similar links on their web or Facebook pages.

Residents have also taken it upon themselves to make their own Sunday school itinerary based on weekly sermons or other items. For some, it goes hand-in-hand with eLearning or teaching other subjects.

Interaction with the youth is what Nydegger missed most.

“It’s a more intimate time,” he said. “We ask a lot of questions and often get an excellent discussion going. Plus, it’s more relaxed with laughter, humorous comments, and stories (some on topic, some not). It’s an excellent fellowship time with our church family, and there’s just no way to replace that via a virtual meeting.”