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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 2 years ago

Winter Garden, Ocoee churches continue to worship during pandemic

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Congregations are meeting and worshiping together through online platforms.
by: Tim Freed Former Managing Editor

Local churches may not be meeting together under one roof, but that isn’t stopping them from using technology to worship together and encourage one another.

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in the wake of COVID-19, churches are live-streaming and recording services so their congregations can still hear a positive message and worship from home.

Among those churches is Mosaic Church in Winter Garden, which has transitioned to an online-only approach since March 15. The church posts new services at 9 a.m. every Sunday on its website, with ASL interpreting and Spanish translation

available. 

The church’s missional communities, groups and classes won’t be meeting in person but will instead be meeting through Zoom and Google Hangouts. It’s a similar approach for Mosaic Students and Mosaic Young Adults, which will be using online platforms with a discipleship schedule posted on the Mosaic Church website.

“There’s something very powerful and profound about meeting together in regularity that is now going to be lost for a certain period of time … we’re finding other ways to do that,” Lead Pastor Renaut van der Riet said.

For Mosaic Kids, the church is offering worship, stories and devotional resources for parents on its website, as well. 

“What we’ve gained, oddly enough, is this unique space where we’re calling parents into disciplining and pouring into their kids spiritually in very unique ways,” van der Riet said. 

The pastor hopes Mosaic Church gives people an opportunity to look back several months from now and realize that slowing down and staying inside actually gave them a chance to refocus — to invest in their relationship with God and each other.

It’s going to feel amazing when the church finally reunites when it’s safe to do so, van der Riet said.

“It is going to have brand-new, profound and powerful experience of something that was totally ordinary before all this,” he said. “There’s something beautiful about losing something that you took for granted and getting it back and going ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”

 

AN ANCHOR IN THE STORM

The congregation at Ocoee Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Ocoee has met since 1883, but even a church with so much history now is forced to adapt under the current circumstances.

Instead of meeting in the building the congregation has called home since 1891, members of the church are watching a Facebook Live stream of Pastor Margaret Marquis in her dining room at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

The services are condensed into about a half hour but still include prayer, a sermon and communion.

“In a time when everything seems out of place, it’s important to have something that we sort of anchor to,” Marquis said. “For many Christians, Sunday morning worship is one of those things that becomes the anchor for the week.”

“Being together is important for Christians — our health is also important,” she said. “The health of the congregation is important to me. I can’t imagine doing anything that would endanger any of them. If that means, for now, being in one place in a building where we’ve worshipped for almost 130 years or my congregation being healthy, I’ll choose being healthy any time.”

A small congregation of around 35 people normally meets at the Ocoee church on Sundays, but over the past two weeks of online services from Marquis’ home, people have watched from as far away as Australia, England and Turkey. The church has reached people like never before.

It’s made the leadership group think about how the church could function in the future, Marquis said.

“Once we’re back in our sanctuary, once we’re worshiping together that way, what are ways that we can either record the service and then put it on our Facebook page after service is over or do it as an online live stream?” she said. “(We’re) looking ahead to how we can we extend our ministry beyond our doors.”

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Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. 

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