Much more than a building

Churches expand ways to maintain relationships with members

Hailey Echan, Staff Reporter

an empty church building
During COVID-19, churches like Mosaic Community Church have had to shift to all online communication. In spite of the distance, churches are finding a way to keep members connected. (Photo courtesy of Mosaic Community Church)

Seattle Pacific University sophomore Inna Nikishina is thankful for Churchome and their head pastor Judah Smith’s approach to online sermons amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced churches across the country to think of new ways to engage with and preach to their congregation.

“Now that church is online, Judah Smith does live sermons on Wednesdays as well which is pretty cool,” said Nikishina in an email.

At the beginning of this pandemic, churches were not regarded as essential and had to shift to all online communication. The Christian church has always claimed they are more than a building, but now that claim is being put to the test.

Alongside Churchome, churches across the west coast like Quest and Mosaic Community in Seattle, and The Bridge Church in Murrieta, California are also creating new ways to interact with their members while following guidelines put in place by their local and state governments.

Quest Church in Seattle has been challenged by the lack of in-person communication, yet has been successful in still connecting with its members, specifically the college-aged ministry.

Junior sociology, social justice and cultural studies double major Emma Friesen is working hard with Quest to support its college-aged population in the absence of in-person socialization.

“We have had a lot of online interactions from things like Zoom small groups, game nights and weekly Instagram takeovers just to get connected with, check in and provide support for those in our community,” Friesen said in an email.

Zoom has been a pivotal factor in churches being able to interact with its members. Mosaic Community Church has embraced this technology to keep in touch with as many members as possible.

the doors of a church
The Bridge in Murrieta, Ca has found ways to support it’s members digitally, but many pastors and members miss personal interaction with their church community. (Hailey Echan)

Head Pastor of Mosaic Community Church, Andrew Bach, knows that the church is much more than a building and is proud of how his church has rallied together to grow in faith as a family, even if unable to meet.

“We have jumped online, encouraged one another and dropped off gifts; we have done the best we could to stay together during this time of separation,” Bach said through an update video to the church’s members.

On Mosaic’s College Ministry Instagram page, encouragement videos are posted every week as a way for the college community to remain in contact and encourage one another. The “Stay Connected Challenge,” issued by college pastors Bubby Graham and Hope Lopez to Mosaic College students, has reminded students of their church family in Seattle.

“We are committed to staying connected in this time apart! We challenge you to send us any testimonies, stories of what God is doing, encouraging scriptures, funny jokes, prayers you’re praying,” Lopez said in a post on Mosaic College’s Instagram.

In one of the encouragement videos, sophomore ecology major Grace Barthelmess reminds followers of where they should put their personal value in times like this.

“I know that my value doesn’t come from the people around me or the things that I am doing. It can only come from God alone,” Barthelmess said.

Being encouraged by fellow SPU Mosaic members has provided reminders that keep students like sophomore biology major Isabella Chang inspired to not give up.

“It has reminded me that I am not going through this alone,” Chang said.

Even in Southern California, pastors are dedicated to reminding their members they have a group of people praying for and supporting them at this time.

Pastor Corey White, youth pastor for The Bridge in Murrieta, California and the rest of the pastoral staff embrace their role as spiritual leaders by standing with their members at this time, even if it is not in person.

“We know we’re not standing next to them, but we’re standing with them. We’re here and praying for them,” White said in an interview over Zoom.

As one of their members was rushed to the hospital after having a heart attack last week, pastors at The Bridge comforted the man’s wife via phone call due to not being able to be there in person. Although it is more challenging, the church has not stopped standing by the side of its members.

“More than ever, the pastoral care side of what we do has increased,” White said.

In a time of much pain and loss in all aspects of life, White is missing the ability to converse with and encourage others face to face instead of through a screen.

“What a time where we need to be together; where we need to hear each others’ stories and struggles and to be there for each other,” White said. “It’s really the importance of gathering rather than a building.”

Gathering creates a space for more relationships to be forged and strengthened, but until a time of gathering comes again, the church will continue to persevere.

“We have proven we are more than just a building, we are a family,” White said.