Esterhazy church adapts to Covid-19 by livestreaming

·3 min read

While COVID-19 restrictions have prevented places of worship from having more than 30 per cent of their building's capacity up to 150 people in at a worship service, St Andrews United Church in Esterhazy has been fortunate enough to keep their congregation below the maximum limit.

Chair of the Board, Fern Forsythe-Hohm, explained their main concern from the restrictions is the impact it has had on their fellowship.

“The biggest thing that we have found is the fellowship, not being able to have the different functions that we have throughout the year. Things like the fundraisers that keep our church open, and things we do to basically keep our community together as well. We can’t do things like our Sunday school, because of course a lot of parents aren’t bringing their kids to church, our Sunday school is not even functioning at this point and we shut it down as soon as COVID hit. Not having children in the church has made a big difference for us, even in the older people we’ve noticed,

“We have one of the biggest Sunday schools in the region, so that’s a big feather in our cap,” Forsythe-Hohm said.

While their numbers have stayed around the capacity of 30, they have had to remove some services that attract more than the allowed amount.

“It’s just been really hard even when working within the guidelines, that you want to still be able to see your pews full. If at any time you hit that number of 30, you have to turn people away. We’ve had to cut back some of our services, we didn’t do things like our Christmas Eve service this year like we normally would have. We didn’t want more people to show up like they normally do and have to turn them away.”

Financially, St Andrews United Church has been hit hard by the pandemic, unable to host its fundraisers that keep its doors open.

To help offset the lost income, Forsythe-hohm says they were able to access government funding that was made available.

“We haven’t been able to do our big fundraiser for our year through the United Women’s Council is our rummage sale every year, and of course not having that even though it’s the perfect time of year to do it because everyone is clearing out their closets.”

Much like other churches in the region, the St Andrews United Church in Esterhazy has begun to offer live-streamed services to those unable to make it to their in-person services. It is also something they are considering keeping when the pandemic ends.

“At the start, we did do the live streaming, but now we had a transition of ministers and this new gentleman will be setting up a new live stream. Every service from here on out will be live-streamed \,” Forsythe-hohm said. “We actually had a little bit of a discussion with our board meeting, and there are people out there who can’t get out of their homes but are very much interested in just doing the live streaming. So we would definitely consider continuing on with it.”

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator