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Virtual church services success in Cape Breton during COVID-19 outbreak

Rev. Dorothy Miller, left, and Kenneth Alexander were smiling and laughing during the first part of their Facebook Live faith service for Collieries Parish in Glace Bay. Like many churches in Cape Breton, Collieries Parish in Glace Bay has turned to online worship services, Bible studies and prayer meetings to help people connect while social gatherings of more than five people are forbidden in Nova Scotia. CONTRIBUTED
Rev. Dorothy Miller, left, and Kenneth Alexander were smiling and laughing during the first part of their Facebook Live faith service for Collieries Parish in Glace Bay. Like many churches in Cape Breton, Collieries Parish in Glace Bay has turned to online worship services, Bible studies and prayer meetings to help people connect while social gatherings of more than five people are forbidden in Nova Scotia. CONTRIBUTED
GLACE BAY, N.S. —

Faith services in many parts of Cape Breton are now being offered online and it’s keeping parishioners connecting during the COVID-19 self-isolation period.

Many churches offering online worship are connecting with children online. These paper palm leaves are one of the crafts Rev. Alison Etter has done with children from her congregation during a recent online meeting. CONTRIBUTED
Many churches offering online worship are connecting with children online. These paper palm leaves are one of the crafts Rev. Alison Etter has done with children from her congregation during a recent online meeting. CONTRIBUTED

Collieries Parish Anglican Church is one of them. Rev. Dorothy Miller told the Cape Breton Post they started offering online worship services, prayers and Bible study groups two weeks ago.

They do their weekly Sunday services and nighttime prayers using Facebook Live. Zoom, a video-audio conferencing app, is the platform they use to hold their weekly Bible study group.

“The beauty is they can call in to join or join in through their computers. It’s all new to us so we’re figuring it out as we go,” said Miller.

“On Facebook Live we’re seeing people now who we haven’t been to church in a while.

"(Doing online services) gives us the opportunity to show church isn’t just a building.”

Miller said the last Facebook Live service they held on Sunday drew more than 250 people who clicked on it for at least part of it.

“We have some people who are inviting their family who live away to join in so they can worship together,” said Miller.

“It’s a work-in-progress but it’s been exciting because it causes many of us, myself included, to look at teaching the word of God in a different way.”

Rev. Alison Etter presides over Warden United and Knox United churches in Glace Bay. They’re using the Zoom platform for all their worship services, Bible studies and children’s groups. Attendance for her weekly Sunday service is between 40 and 50 people, which she says is comparable to what she’d see in person. The time is the same but services are only 30 minutes and Etter says they do less singing because it’s harder to do that over the phone.

Rev. Alison Etter presides over Knox United and Warden United churches in Glace Bay.
Rev. Alison Etter presides over Knox United and Warden United churches in Glace Bay.

"After we have tea time. Of course, people have to make their own tea,” she said with a laugh. “But we stay and talk together for 30 minutes after the service.”

Etter said they’re also offering prayer meetings, which last 15 minutes.

“People will call in and say who they are praying for. Many are praying for health-care workers, people who are sick and even for people who are lonely while they are home self-isolating.”

Both reverends say staying connected with their congregations and them with each other helps while crowds of five or more are prohibited in Nova Scotia due to the precautionary measures being enforced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“People tell me they’re doing OK and then I find some hesitation in their voice and I can speak to them more. What I’m seeing is people are looking for connection,” Etter said.

“People who were church-goers before found their sense of community on Sundays. They don’t have that now,” said Miller. “This gives them a chance to still have that connection.”

Along with their individual church events, the popular Glace Bay Ecumenical lectures leading up to Easter are now taking place online (information can be found on either church Facebook page) and rebroadcast on Sundays on the Coast radio.

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