SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — The state-ordered “stay home, stay safe” order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak isn’t stopping many area churches from holding services — online, that is.
Sunday, Immanuel Baptist Church in Corunna began live-streaming sermons to congregation members through Facebook. Services take place at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays, and 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
A large banner in front of the church, 2680 E. M-21, advertises the new approach.
“Our church isn’t going into hibernation — we’re ramping up,” the Rev. Jason Georges said. “We’re trying to stay connected with folks, and we’ve even found we’re connecting with people we normally don’t (by holding online services).”
A skeleton staff, including people who run cameras, handles the live-streamed sermons. In addition to church services, Georges is streaming what he calls a daily word of encouragement at 10 a.m. every morning on Facebook. Three days in, Facebook views topped 2,000.
“We see this as an opportunity to show our love of Christ and his love for the community,” Georges said.
First United Methodist Church, 1500 N. Water St. in Owosso, plans to live-stream this Sunday for the third time on Facebook and the church website, owossofumc.org.
“Many people need to be encouraged, especially now,” the Rev. Deane Wyllys said.
Also, a Lent message is being live-streamed each weekday at 10 a.m. This Thursday’s daily message will be geared toward children.
“See, the church is people, not a building,” Wyllys said. “We are blessed with all of these tools, and people are watching and they’re sharing, and it’s wonderful.”
For the first online sermon, Wyllys live-streamed his remarks using his own cellphone. Since then, he has moved up to a laptop.
“(Live-streaming) is an adjustment,” he said. “This is not my comfort zone, but I’m dealing with it.”
Salem Lutheran Church, 330 N. Washington St. in Owosso, has aired sermons on Z92.5 FM radio for years, but during the COVID-19 crisis the church is also live-streaming sermons on a You Tube channel and Facebook. Links are set up on the church’s website, salemowosso.org.
As many as 400 people are watching sermons on Facebook, the church secretary said.
“When we live-streamed the sermon last week, some of the congregation members communicated how thankful they were, sending emails and calling the pastor,” the secretary said.
The radio program has been on a one-week delay, but church officials are hoping to air the Easter sermon live on Z92.5.
Lt. Justin Steckbauer from the Salvation Army said church services at the citadel went live March 22 through Facebook and got 500 views. Sundays kick off with a live-streamed service from the Flint Salvation Army. Then Steckbauer goes live with a sermon at 5 p.m.
“It went pretty well last Sunday. We had 500 views,” Steckbauer said.
In addition, the church is live-streaming some programs, enabling people to watch and participate with typed comments from home.
Church services aside, the Salvation Army is open regular hours, offering to-go meals instead of the usual daily luncheon. For details, visit centralusa.salvationarmy.org/owosso.
Assembly of God Church, 1150 N. Shiawassee St. in Owosso, hasn’t yet gotten on board with the live-streaming trend, but plans to, possibly this Sunday, the Rev. Ken Herbruck said.
March 15 was the last Sunday service before the church closed, he said.
“We’ve never been down this road before,” Herbruck said.
To keep in touch with his congregation, he has been calling them on the phone. He said he feels badly that because of the contagious coronavirus, he cannot visit people in person as he normally does.
“I just feel I’m going to have to do more,” Herbruck aid. “But overall, people seem to be handling this outbreak well.”
Owosso First Church of the Nazarene in Owosso Township, led by the Rev. Jerry Walden, has joined the move to live-stream sermons on Facebook. For details, visit owossonazarene.org.
The Lansing Catholic Diocese announced last week it has canceled services through April 8. However, the diocese has for many years televised a weekly “outreach Mass” on local stations from St. Thomas Aquinas in Lansing.