Thursday, March 19, 2020

350-Year Old First Church Faces the Challenge of COVID-19 and Provides Online Spiritual Nourishment

In this time of social distancing, First Church of Christ in Middletown began the hard work of determining how to provide spiritual nourishment for their members. After a difficult decision to close its doors, church leaders and volunteers at First Church came up with a format for online access and interaction, debuting Its first online church service Sunday.

Sunday's service maintained many elements of a regular Sunday church service, including an interactive bulletin, Pastor Julia Burkey’s recorded welcome, and a musical prayer by Music Minister Shari Lucas. Rev. Burkey's welcome affirmed our uncertainties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, counseled patience, and offered reassurance. “It's all new territory,” she says, “noting that even for clergy, there are no classes on “how to pastor during a pandemic.  All of us are rapidly learning and growing together with patience and love for each other.”  To close, more than 30 members joined together with live, interactive prayers & concerns through Zoom, a virtual meeting platform.

Responses to online church are heartening. Elise Kennedy, a youth-apprentice at the church noted, “The virtual service felt much more personal and ...  everyone could do it on their own. We could take time to think about it.” A First Church Fellowship page on Facebook offers other ways to share chats, thoughts, and pictures online.  Participants say they find strength in seeing each other in virtual space and they're open to other new ways of experiencing church online.  Rev. Julia will host tea time chats on Wednesday mornings, where people can drop in and share how they're coping.

For some years, First Church in Middletown has envisioned creating a spiritual home beyond its walls— a way to do church differently, and to broaden the idea of church and meet the spiritual needs of our diverse community.  That vision is now becoming real as a virtual spiritual network—church beyond walls. Reverend Burkey suggests, “We can turn our hearts toward the source of Love that we call God wherever we are.  It can even happen in our living rooms.”  No matter where you are on life's journey, First Church encourages all of you to join us online on Sundays for a virtual faith experience.

For more details, updates, and information on how to connect with a First Church virtual event, visit First Church at or call 860-346-6657.


Linda Choser said...

It is a blessing to be an active member of First Church. For those seeking spiritual nourishment and authentic fellowship, I encourage you to check us out!
Blessings to all during this time,
Linda Choser
Deacon at First Church of Christ, Middletwon

Kari said...

Beautiful! Rev. Julia Burkey brings comfort and love to all no matter where you are on life's journey. Prayers for health and safety for all of Middletown and beyond.