Langley’s biggest church could hold its services via online streaming if the COVID-19 outbreak becomes too bad, the lead pastor says.
It’s just one of the ways Christian Life Assembly and other churches around Langley are considering to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 100,000 people and caused several thousand deaths worldwide.
Lead Pastor Derrick Hamre said there are two sides to consider with a major church like CLA.
“There’s our church family,” Hamre said. “CLA has 3,000 people. And we have also a facility that’s rented.”
CLA was one of the first facilities impacted by the coronavirus in Langley, when the Live in Langley Lunar New Year Celebration was cancelled in late January.
Live In Langley organizers called off the event, which was expected to draw up to 1,000 people, hours before the scheduled start after about 200 people, including guests and performers, cancelled.
“It had been pre-arranged for months,” noted Hamre.
In the church itself, there’s a big congregation to take care of, the pastor said.
“We’re dealing with five generations, multi-ethnic, it’s very cosmopolitan,” he said of the church community.
The church is more than a weekly Sunday service – there are daycare and pre-school programs, and classes.
This week alone, the church is hosting a “Welcome to Church” Party, a baptism class, a film screening, a used book sale, and organizing a recreational soccer team, among other events.
But a few things have changed. Signs tell parishioners and staff to remember to wash their hands and encourage them to use the hand sanitizer, bottles of which have appeared in more places.
This past Sunday, people arriving for the service greeted each other with fist bumps, elbow bumps, and bows, Hamre said.
“There’s a lot of hand-shaking in our gatherings,” Hamre noted, but other expressions of greeting are being found.
Anyone who is sick is asked to stay at home.
The executive team that oversees the church’s ministry has also met about the COVID-19 issue.
“We first asked out people to pray,” Hamre said. “In times of trouble in the world, we’re called on to pray.”
The church leadership is taking their guidance from provincial and federal health authorities, as well as the school district, when it comes to pre-school and daycare.
Technology is something the church has been using for some time that could now come to the fore.
“As a church, we livestream,” said Hamre. “So we know that 3,000 people don’t need to be in the auditorium for a Sunday service.”
A small team could put together the lighting, audio, and internet connection for a service, he said.
The church already uses its livestreaming facilities to reach out to people who can’t come to regular services, or to broadcast to its other facilities, as CLA has buildings in several Lower Mainland communities.
“We’re just fortunate to be able to be so engaged online,” Hamre said.
Hamre noted that some sister churches in Italy and Singapore have already started livestreaming instead of holding services in person. Though there aren’t plans to start that yet, it something that could happen if health authorities warn against large gatherings.
As with other major institutions, travel has also been impacted. Hamre just got word that a conference in Thailand scheduled for April has been cancelled.
As of now, a major conference of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, scheduled for May in Halifax, is still a go, with representatives from 1,200 churches expected to attend.