While church leaders have found ways to connect with their congregations while physically apart, some are looking to invest in long-term solutions to continue to offer virtual services, which may include expensive updates to century-old brick and stone buildings.
Manito United Methodist Church, at 3220 S. Grand Blvd., has managed to stream services to its congregation for the past several months, but Rev. Tiffany DeTienne said the church may have to make some investments in audio and visual technology to continue to do so long term, and may also have to upgrade their internet to allow community groups that normally use the building for events to have a safe place to hold hybrid gatherings in the future.
She said the church has raised about $6,000 of a $10,000 goal for the improvements through a fundraiser involving the congregation.
She said normally, the church holds a rummage sale or an auction to raise money, but like many organizations, traditional fundraisers have been canceled. Instead, church members delivered cookies with frosting masks on them and made invitations they stuck in toilet paper rolls and then placed in church members’ mailboxes.
Every person who donates has a roll of toilet paper placed in the sanctuary in their honor.
DeTienne said the church, which was completed in 1924, has a history of hosting community events. In past years the church had a gym, and hosted sports events and a barbershop, but those have now been replaced with classroom and other gathering spaces.
She said hundreds normally use the church’s education wing, which was added on in the 1950s, but only a small summer camp for children is being hosted now. The groups that meet there such as Alcoholics Anonymous, won’t be able to do hybrid meetings until internet can be extended to that section of the building. She said the church is also working on getting an ECEAP Preschool in the building and wants to ensure the space is usable for the community regardless of what the future holds.
Extending internet will be far more complicated for the church than for a modern building, because contractors won’t be able to drill through the walls. Instead they’ll have to find a way to stretch cable around the outside of the building to the areas it needs to go.
The improvements to the sanctuary won’t require complicated wiring, but may end up being costly as well.
She said the church sanctuary, almost 100 years old, isn’t equipped for recording services and the church may stay completely online, or move to hybrid services, for the foreseeable future to protect their vulnerable members.
She said she hopes to use the money they raise to buy a camera that would sit in the balcony and link new technology to the church’s existing sound system. Currently, staff is recording sermons with cellphones and posts services to YouTube. She said they have also resorted to making DVDs of the services to share with those who have challenges accessing social media.
“We don’t want to leave anybody behind,” she said.
She said once they have improved technology, it will be easier to show both the sermon and the sign language interpreter, which will be helpful for the churches deaf and hard of hearing members. She said it also will give them equipment to possibly make sign language videos to teach more members of the congregation to sign, and sign could temporarily replace singing so congregants have a way to participate and follow along during services.
Andy CastroLang, pastor of Westminster United Church of Christ at 411 S. Washington St. in downtown Spokane, said they also were looking for ways to adapt services due to the ongoing pandemic.
CastroLang has broadcast services from her home using a laptop for the past several months, but said as the pandemic continues, her congregation will need to adapt. She said she is looking into purchasing a camera that could be used in the sanctuary and finding a way to improve the lighting, which she said is atmospheric for in-person services, but creates some challenges when trying to broadcast from the sanctuary.
CastroLang said she is still looking into how to fund those purchases and is considering seeking a grant for the lighting. She said the church, which is around 140 years old, has received grants in the past for restoration.
“We’re all planning, planning for the future, though we don’t know what the future holds,” she said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.