Macarthur churches turn to streaming amid restrictions

NewLife Oran Park has started streaming services.
NewLife Oran Park has started streaming services.

Macarthur's churches are utilising the technology at their disposal to reach as many people as possible during the coronavirus lockdown.

The region's places of worship are closed to the public as part of the government's strict measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

But that hasn't stopped churches from reaching their congregations.

St Mark's Anglican Church in Picton has made Reverend Ben Boardman's services available to worshippers in a number ways, including the world's new favourite web tool Zoom (for video conferencing).

"The preferred and best option is a Zoom meeting," Reverend Boardman said.

"That way we can have 30-40 people all together in a video chat.

"We can break off into sub-groups and have discussions.

"We're trying to get the community together with the tools at our disposal."

Reverend Boardman said the services would also be uploaded to Youtube to be more easily accessed by people who weren't as confident using technology. He said the links would be sent to congregation members via text message or email.

The final method, for people - especially elderly - who found even Youtube to be outside their comfort zone, was to make a DVD and deliver them.

"We're also calling everyone in the congregation once a week to see how they're doing," Reverend Boardman said.

He said churches were all about bringing people together and forming connections - something that was even harder to do in a time of self-isolation.

"People need that connection and to feel close to God and understand that we're all in this together," Reverend Boardman said.

"With the loss of shares and careers people can feel like they don't have any control and faith can help there."

The church has encouraged congregation members to fill out 'kindness postcards' and drop them in their neighbours' letterboxes. The cards let their neighbours know that the senders are ready and willing to help out with groceries or a chat if they need it.

Campbelltown's St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish church is also turning to digital media to reach out to worshippers.

Father John Ho said he was trying to ensure the congregation was familiar with all the new government restrictions and had been delivering services via video streaming.

He said 1500 people joined the Sunday morning mass just gone and about 400 people were attending weekday morning mass virtually.

"We need to show that we're still a community and we'll fight this together," Father Ho said.

The priest said the church was also in frequent contact with members to ascertain if they needed assistance, like food supplies or any other support.

"This is the Australian spirit, and the Christian spirit," he said.

Oran Park's NewLife Anglican church launched its live streaming service on Sunday to an audience of 60 local families.

Lead Pastor Stuart Starr said the numbers had only grown since then.

"We've had 400 views on the video since we uploaded it to Youtube," he said.

"It was a pretty uncanny thing to deliver the service to a camera, but I just tried to look through the camera and reach the people on the other end.

"We were sent lovely photos of families watching around their laptops or their TVs."

Mr Starr says he is expecting there to be even more interest when Easter rolls around in a few weeks.

"We'll be streaming our Thursday, Friday and Sunday services," he said.

"There will be people joining in that have never stepped foot in our church."

NewLife's streamed services can be accessed via their website: newlifeanglican.org.au.