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Faithful flock to screens for Sunday service

Family gathers in a living room on Sunday for the online Sunday service. (Sarang Church)
Family gathers in a living room on Sunday for the online Sunday service. (Sarang Church)

Changes to how the faithful worship were inevitable as many churches went online for Sunday services due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Churchgoers sat in front of laptops and TV screens to watch the service, some alone, others with their families. According to Sarang Church in Seoul, one of the several megachurches in South Korea, over 40,000 people viewed the online stream last Sunday through its website and YouTube channel.

“Having Sunday service online reminds us how precious the church and our community is. Having service at home with grandparents and grandchildren is a special blessing we shared,” said Oh Jung-hyun, the lead pastor of Sarang Church, during his online sermon Sunday.

Members of megachurches in Korea experienced some changes to how they worship as services went online.

The sound of hymns sung by thousands in megachurches was replaced by small choirs singing onstage in front of empty pews.

“I couldn’t get into the worship as much since the sound system at home did not bring the songs to life,” said a member of Somang Presbyterian Church.

Small churches, which do not have a band but have pastors playing the guitar, said that the number of worship songs went from the usual four or five to only two in light of going online.
The broadcasting team of Sarang Church live are seen streaming Sunday service on Sunday. (Sarang Church)
The broadcasting team of Sarang Church live are seen streaming Sunday service on Sunday. (Sarang Church)

Another change was the way worshippers prepared to attend the Sunday service. Instead of donning their Sunday best for church, people wore comfortable clothes at home, some children still in their pajamas. The solemn silence of the church as the pastor delivered the sermon was replaced by the occasional questions and comments among family members.

The absence of Holy Communion also shortened the service time. Some even mentioned having snacks and drinks during service and sitting on comfortable couches instead of hard wood pews.

Small churches that do not have the facility to broadcast online sought other means of holding Sunday service.

Samill Presbyterian Church in Yeongdeungpo District in Seoul, which has around 250 Sunday service attendees, decided not to have online service but asked members to hold family worship service at home.

“We thought the elderly people of our church would have trouble watching service online, so we told our members to have family worship service. The members can give offerings to any institution they feel they need to give to in order to help fight against the virus. They can send their offerings online if they want, but we don’t specify it,” lead pastor Kim Jong-hwan of Samill Church told The Korea Herald.

Some churches, like Church with Blessing in Eunpyeong-gu Seoul, posted pre-recorded worship videos online at service time. Offerings were left up to each individual.

“Many people, including our family, have been giving tithe by online transfer even before the coronavirus spread. As for Sunday offering, we plan to give when we go back to church,” said a member of the Church with Blessing.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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