It's Sunday morning and usually I am rushing to get ready to head to my church for Mass, but today I was rushing to get settled in front of my laptop to watch the Livestream of the 9:30 am. We had 475 people last weekend when we were given guidelines of only gathering 250 people in the church. So with the total suspension of all Masses we anticipated thousands to tune in and I was going to be moderating the comments during the liturgy.
When the stream started at 9:27 and the cantor began to sing the comments began to pour in, so many, so fast that I couldn't respond to each one and just had to respond with a general message of welcome to everyone. In fact, let this serve as a welcome to all of you as we enter this new era for our church. I believe that we will divide our history as "BC" before Coronavirus and "AC" after Coronavirus. While we have had many books and articles debating the need for "New Evangelization" using technology, now we are seeing it evolve from theory to reality.
Just three weeks ago when I started writing my monthly article for the Diocese of Honolulu the week of March 11th as the Archdioccese of Seattle was the first to suspend Mass in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. They shared the news across all of their social media and even had Bishop Etienne record the announcement of the suspension of Masses via a vimeo video. In the last ten days we have seen the number of suspensions soar and the call for social distancing be mandated in cities across the nation.
Bishop Barron has been sounding the alarm that parishes need to embrace communication tools for the 20th Century for years. At the Los Angeles Religious Congress he talked about using technology and again at the Bishops Annual Assembly last year. In an article published by Our Sunday Visitor he was quoted as saying “Using this tool, which didn’t exist even 10 years ago, we can now reach into their world.” He also said,“We should invest a lot of time and money in getting really good people to work our social media.”
This weekend parishes all across the country who couldn't host public Masses were scrambling with trying to find new ways to connect with parishioners. Across social media people links to the online virtual Masses they were watching. Our Catholic communities filled feeds with our faith tradition as a source of inspiration and consolation in these uncertain times. Those who had not invested in technology or established a presence on social media left their parishes without a much needed connection to parish family members.
Back to the Livestream at the end of the night there had been 3,100 views of our virtual Mass experience. We were able to engage our members and attract new ones online from many cities across the country. It challenged our liturgical director to design a liturgy that was engaging but also compliant with guidelines of only having ten people in the church. So we went from a choir to a cantor with a guitar, one lector, two camera people and a priest. Our comments were filled with appreciation for the music.
Lastly, the suspension of Mass through Lent is adding to an involuntary fast of the Holy Eucharist and Blood of Christ. As so many of us watched the Eucharist be raised at Consecration it sparked a yearning in our souls for the physical communion with Christ. Our Priest shared a prayer that consoled us in this time of sacrifice.
As the days, weeks and months ahead force our parish and diocesan leaders to embrace technology, lend your technological gifts and support to help. In my own parish we are seeing everyone step up to provide content and learning new tools to communicate spiritual messages.
Let us hope that when we move to the "AC" phase that we will have kindled a new spirit of the power of Catholicism that kindles a rebirth for the Lukewarm, Fallen Away and Nones. Share how your faith is helping you get through this crisis on your social media pages.
Be Safer at Home and as my dear grandmother would say "Wash your Hands".