Regina churches embrace COVID-related adaptations

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and First Baptist Church Regina have fully embraced the virtual platforms their congregations were thrust into two years ago.

The two churches are currently using a hybrid-model hosting services both online and in-person.

James Chimirri-Russell, pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, says they have come a long way from pushing a camera around on a tea cart to the direct to Facebook and YouTube stream they have now.

He said having both the virtual and in-person options has made attending the services easier for more people.

“Our reach has become much broader given that there are people who were like really desperate for this kind of content,” said Chimirri-Russell. “All they were waiting for was for us to take that initial push, which was a very unpleasant push, it was super hard to do it, but now that it’s running it’s been great for them and for us.”

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church holds two services on Sunday and one on Wednesday, as well as weekly activities such as youth group and book study.

These activities currently run in the hybrid-model as well, but are made to be easily adaptable.

“We’ve done our best to have that be either online and in-person constantly or able to switch online at a moment’s notice because at any second it could change,” said Chimirri-Russell, adding the youth group was switched to online in the fall after many of the participants were deemed close contacts at school.

First Baptist Church Regina is also happy with the accessibility the online platforms bring.

In March 2020, Joel Russell-MacLean, lead pastor, did the first virtual service himself with his guitar, and now they have weaved the aspect of Zoom into their services, giving people the opportunity to interact and preach from home.

On Sunday, they were joined by a church in Dauphin, Man., a speaker from southern California and a pastor from the Philippines.

“There’s some creative and fun things you can do you know have people take part from around the world and remember that you’re part of something so much bigger than what you often see day to day,” said Joel Russell-MacLean.

He says it’s about relationships and staying in touch, and being able to reach those who are shut in has a positive impact.

“They were able to take part in some of our activities during the week or on Sundays and that’s just rich, it’s not just making the best of things, it’s actually a gain,” said Russell-MacLean.

Both churches say it is likely the virtual portion of their services are here to stay as it provides a means of connecting people together in a way that suits them, watching on their own time from the safety from their home or even remaining part of their church after moving away.