Online Church Services

I took this screenshot many months ago (you can tell because Lauren is still pregnant here). And it’s low resolution since it’s a screenshot but I’m still thankful enough to share it.

We are frequently traveling so calling a particular church “home” is a bit tricky. I also, until recently, worked on Sundays (my choice, actually) so grabbing a service Sunday morning was not ideal. It didn’t bother me too much since I could still listen to podcasts to further my spiritual journey. And I also participated in an online Bible study.

Then we discovered a church we really connected with while visiting our kids in Utah. I wish I could go there weekly, and we discovered that we can — by attending online. They offer several services, and one is on Sunday evenings throughout the winter. It’s become a treat for me since Lauren often sings during the service, and CJ works the technology. I tend to watch it from Facebook.

There is a messaging option so we can greet each other and make comments during the service.

Chatting during church (and catching archived services).

It’s okay if we miss a service. I can always go to Facebook and catch one from a time in the past. The one I just took a screenshot of was two weeks ago. You don’t even need a Facebook account. The archives can be accessed on the church’s website at:

https://www.mvfchurch.com/messages

This is not the only church with these offerings. When I first moved from western to northern NY, I stayed in touch with my former church for quite a while, and I enjoyed seeing my friends in the congregation (communion Sundays were a treat since everyone walks up to the altar so I could even see my friends who we used to sit with in the balcony). I see I wrote about being thankful for that a couple of years ago.

One of my favorite friends from my former town also joins, so we cross the miles between MA, NY and Utah as we worship together — friends and family. Shared times of worship are definitely something to be thankful for.

**For the month of November each year, I try to focus on something I’m thankful for each day. It is the month that holds Thanksgiving where I live, after all. Focusing on the positive and remembering the little things that make life great are things I should do more often. Last year I found that writing every day during the holiday time got a bit stressful. So this year I’m writing throughout the year and scheduling the posts to go out in November.

Ten Days in Dempster

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I spent August 6-16 in a church camp in northern NY. We do this once a year, staying in a cabin with my mother-in-law. Other in-laws join for parts of the week, and we get to hang out with friends we only see a few times of year. It’s a time where we celebrate our faith by holding a vacation Bible school, attending nightly services, singing and going to Bible studies (all optional but available). It’s a time of lots of laughter, rest, rejuvenation and a reminder of not only the blessings we have, but also a reminder of how we can take our blessings and use them to help others.

A favorite part of the ten days for me is seeing the intergenerational interactions. The 80+-year-olds inspire our teens while our teens take the time to encourage and hang out with the little ones. My age bridges the age gap as we help the old ones move about and guide the teens as they play with the younger ones when our energy levels lapse.

The focus of the kids program this year was “Shine Like the Stars.” Our universe is amazing! We had science lessons that took our breath away. We are so small and insignificant in the scope of all creation, yet we are still considered important and unique. Amazing.

The focus of the program for everyone was light. How can we help others by lighting and clearing a path for them? One way is to reach out to help those in need. One night we learned about a remote area of Africa in which a local-to-us-woman goes to bring books so kids can learn to read and broaden knowledge to pull themselves out of poverty. She brings school supplies, books, and computers to them (plus some resources for food).

While that’s not a specific Christian outreach, it’s really what we (those of us in the camp) believe our faith is all about. Reaching out to help others with the gifts we have been given. It’s all pretty awesome, imho.

Now I’m home and back to my beautiful reality, but I feel refreshed. And I already miss my friends.

What a treat this camp is for my family.

* Many thanks to Carrie Trapasso Halladay for the majority of the images.

Caring for Others, as we all Should

The kids in my world are very inspirational. I was reminded of this as we packed up three vans and drove a group of teens to the west side of Buffalo where they joined other kids for a week of helping others. It was a church project, and it’s something that has happened annually for years. This year Chris and I got to go for a few days as well. The kids grab a breakfast at 8 am and by 9 they are in the vans heading off to worksites where they scraped and painted and got some houses ready for our harsh winters. In the evenings they ate together then had a service.

Yes, it was fun. They got to be together for a week, staying in a hotel. But it was also some pretty grueling work. The cool temps and torrential rains the first day didn’t pull the smiles off their faces, though. And they were raring to get back to the sites the next day.

In a world where the people in churches often make poor choices and where kids are seen in a negative light, this week was extremely refreshing. And I know from past experiences that the beautiful spirit of these kids thrives even after they are home. Truly inspirational.

While I was there that week, I read the following blog post that pretty much summed up what these kids were doing. And it reminded me of what I need to work a bit harder on:

This is a re-blog of a post from a blog I really enjoy following. It’s beautifully written and highlights one of my favorite songs. Thanks for posting it, John.

Find a Church Service on The Web

There are so many reasons one might want to use technology for church or other type of religious service. (I’m going to use churches in this article because it’s what I’m most familiar with as a Christian). You might be ill, the roads might be dangerous, you might be traveling, or you might have a hard time picking which church you wish to attend. That’s just to name a few reasons, and it’s not even counting the times you attended a service and wanted to listen to a message again. The solutions to these issues might be right in front of you – and you just don’t know it yet.
Catch Sermons Week-to-Week
When my kids were younger, we were in a quandary. They were too old for children’s church, yet the adult church was just a bit, well, too adult-y. The material presented wasn’t age-appropriate, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember any place in the Bible that dictated that being a Christian included a three-point sermon. My husband and I decided that we still wanted our children to learn about God, but in an age-appropriate setting. We chose to send them to Sunday school and not make them come to the church service.
This was great for them, but not so great for me. I missed the sermons. Fortunately there was a solution. I discovered that our church offered a podcast, available on the church website and on iTunes. It’s a free download that updates weekly. As I browsed through the Internet, I discovered that many churches offer this podcast option.
Find a Church Service on The Web For Special Holidays
Another issue we faced was the holiday one. My husband isn’t really big on crowds, and the religious holidays tend to have people packed into the church so tightly that one could feel like a a mummy in a sauna.
Our solution? We catch a service on the Internet, watching a service in real time with the computer hooked to the speakers, so we can enjoy the music and the message without the crowds. On non-holidays, we can watch services online at any time using sites such as ChurchOnline. My favorite part of the online services is that I can worship with people from all around the world.
Wedding, Baptisms, and Funerals
There are, of course, the special services, too. The services that you want to hold on to forever. Thanks to digital recordings, these special services are there for you to keep in your files so you can listen to them whenever you want.
If you want to give church technology a try, there are a few points to consider. If you are a church music fan, you might be better watching the services online or get the app for a church such as the Saddleback iPhone app. Most churches don’t offer music in their podcasts due to legal reasons. Also, find a church (or two or three) that you love, and ask what they offer. Some churches offer basic sermons while others do Bible studies and prayer sessions. Some even offer youth group online.
Give it a try, and let me know if you come across any great podcasts.

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