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Streaming Services Connect Imperial Valley Faithful
Laura Goodsell, right, plays the flute for St. Paul's Church music ensemble in Holtville during a March 29 livestream during the COVID-19 crisis. | WILLIAM ROLLER PHOTO

Virtual Services Connect Imperial Valley Faithful

IMPERIAL VALLEY — During a time of crisis such as the current pandemic presents people of faith often proclaim that God prepares his people as well as he provides for his people, noted a local clergy member.

Walter Colace, co-senior pastor of Christ Community Church in El Centro, has brought Sunday worship to the living room by live streaming services on the church Facebook page. Many other local churches are also doing so.

“We (previously) felt live stream would be good for shut-ins or people who were traveling,” Colace said. “We were in the middle of a series, The Scarlet Thread, when the COVID-19 outbreak happened. We broke with that because when the Lord draws us in and asks us to see what he wants, it provides us with hope and encouragement.”

Despite social distancing, people still feel the need to continue to be fed spiritually, Colace explained. Live streaming provides live worship and live music that keeps the members connected, he added.

Many people have made positive comments about the service, noting they are grateful to still have a chance to worship.

Time of Uncertainty

“During the pandemic there are a lot of burdens on the heart and people are asking: Will they have a job next week? Will they come down with the coronavirus? But that’s not the focus. The point is to open peoples’ eyes to see it is a chance to serve others in need,” Colace explained.

He added, “They should learn to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That’s a catalyst for our hashtag #Do likewise. Yet we haven’t encountered despair but have directed our people to minister to others, be a neighbor to others, and see the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity. By putting their faith into practice we’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing.”

Spreading his devotion among several Catholic churches in Imperial Valley, Fr. Ed Horning ministers to Sacred Heart in Brawley and St. Joseph’s in Westmorland, among others. Theses churches have been live-streaming seven days a week since March 16.

They have had 2,000 views a day, most from Imperial County but some from Acapulco and Mexicali.

“People express an outpouring of gratitude,” said Horning. “By live streaming we are preserving lives. We’ve been encouraging people who view to follow the federal, state and local guidelines about social distancing.”

Fighting Isolation

Horning encouraged people to phone neighbors to relieve their isolation yet also to check in on them, especially the elderly.

He said he has started a phone tree among his parishioners and asked them each to phone three or four others.

“We hope it works,” he said. “It’s another way to show support for the community and let everybody know they are a part of the community.”

Horning added, “We hope and pray for an end to the coronavirus. We are praying for all those who serve the medical profession and the food industry workers.”

For the last three Sundays St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Holtville has been live streaming Sunday worship service on its Facebook page with Pastor Mike Beyer preaching and uploading to YouTube, explained Jim Roberts, parish director of Christian education.

Roberts wears a number of hats, occasionally preaching mid-week service on Wednesday, and he also works behind the scene helping with the sound system, video and tech support. He notes St. Paul’s will live stream during Holy Week on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

While St. Paul’s is pleased with the response to the live stream, it only has an approximate count of about 60 viewers.

“That is a respectable count for a typical worship crowd of 110,” Roberts pointed out. “We don’t have the analytics. We don’t know how long they’re staying with the service when it’s live streaming.”

Despite the reception to live streamed services, St. Paul’s members anticipate better days to come.          

“Our viewers would tell you, they miss being together with their brothers and sisters,” Roberts added.

This story is featured in the April 2, 2020 e-Edition.