Faith groups turn to social media during winter weather

Saturday, February 8, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — This winter’s bitter temperatures, ice and snow have prompted some faith groups to cancel their usual services and activities on more than one occasion. But that hasn’t stopped them from carrying out their missions.

Here’s a quick look at how some churches have gotten creative this winter.

  • Video messages at the Unitarian Universalist Church

When services were canceled last Sunday, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia tried something new: an online alternative to worship.

The Rev. Molly Housh Gordon made the church’s “first-ever inclement weather Sunday morning video” and posted it on the church’s Facebook page.

In the 4-minute video, Housh Gordon gave her congregation the key points at the heart of Sunday’s message, which focused on creativity – the church’s theme for the month of February.

She also posted a video of flickering candles, inviting people to “light” them as they shared joys, sorrows and prayers in the comments section.

There was even something for the kids – Housh Gordon made a 1-minute video with a hands-on activity focused on imagining a new creation.

  • A Facebook conversation at Calvary Episcopal Church

Calvary Episcopal Church also turned to Facebook. The Rev. Cathy Rosenholtz at Calvary Episcopal Church had planned on posting a spiritual reflection but was inspired to make it interactive when she saw what Housh Gordon was doing on the Unitarian Univeralist Church’s page.

“Although we are not gathering physically this morning, we can gather virtually here,” the message began. It continued with a short narrative about the day Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, as told in the Bible. It focused on the hope that comes from recognizing Jesus.

Parishioners were then invited to respond:

“When do [you] recognize the hope of Jesus? How have you seen the promise of new life in Christ fulfilled in your life? Please, if you feel so moved, share your thoughts here in the comments section.”

And respond is just what they did – about five people shared their own reflections, as well as prayer requests.

The church also sent the message to the congregation via email.

  • A simple reflection at First Baptist Church

At First Baptist Church, the Rev. Carol McEntyre tries to hold at least the 11 a.m. service – but sometimes, even that doesn’t seem safe.

“I’m just always thinking about the safety of the people,” McEntyre said. “If anything were to happen, as the leader, I would feel responsible.”

As a snow-day alternative, she, too, has turned to Facebook.

When church was canceled one day in January, she tried to get a conversation going on the church’s Facebook page, but not many people responded.

This week, a few days after the Sunday cancelation, she posted a short personal reflection:

Can a snow day be a spiritual practice? I was thinking about this yesterday. Snow days can force us to slow down, to cease work, to play (with Nate in my case). Having a snow day reminds me how hard it is for me to simply BE. Psalm 46:10 says “Be Still and Know that I am God.” How can I know God if I am never still? Did you learn anything from your snow day? ~ Carol McEntyre

The overall response was stronger – though not many people commented, more people “liked” it, and some have even mentioned it to her.

“That seemed to strike a chord to people,” she said.

This article first appeared on Columbia Faith & Values.

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