By Rev. Marty Levesque
In this new normal of living through a pandemic, our reliance on social media platforms has been vindicated. People use to see social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as distractions, and not core to ministry. This all changed with COVID-19.
We now rely on Facebook, YouTube, Zoom and Hangouts for everything from connecting with parishioners, holding meetings to streaming worship services. The most popular tools are Facebook for live streaming worship services and Zoom and Hangouts for video conferencing.
Many of our churches already had a decent Facebook presence. Being able to adapt quickly and make use of Facebook Live has allowed many of us to stream services and maintain our worshiping communities. This weekly opportunity for virtual worship keeps the body of Christ together when we cannot be together.
Zoom and Hangouts have also been instrumental in this new normal. Zoom’s free account allows for up to 100 people on a video conferencing call, more than enough for parish council meetings. Zoom’s limitation is that it restricts group video calls to 40 minutes. To overcome this restriction you will need to sign up to plan. The most cost-effective is $20 a month, or $200 if paid annually.
Hangouts meanwhile are part of the Google Business suite that the Diocese of Huron has made available to every cleric for free. They host up to 100 participants and have no time restriction on video calls, so there is no need to upgrade the service. Hangouts, as part of the Google business suite ecosystem, integrate all the Google tools. You can present your screen or separate window and share documents live; a great tool for the treasurer’s report.
Regardless of the tool one thing as become clear, social media is no longer a secondary tool, but a primary tool to ministry. And while it is not for everyone, it has been a gift from God in maintaining our communities in this crisis and allowing us the opportunity to continue with ministry.
Rev. Marty Levesque is the diocesan social media officer and rector of All Saints’ in Waterloo.