Echo Park -- The debut of the Echo Park United Methodist Church's first Sunday service on Facebook Live was far from polished. The broadcast was a bit shaky at times, and at one point the entire picture was turned on it side.
But the church's first attempt at live streaming last Sunday -- which at one point was watched by more than 50 people -- won't be its last. "This is a first attempt," said a church Facebook post. "We promise to get better!"
The old church will be relying on the relatively new technology to keep connected with parishioners who will be avoiding services and other gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
"I do believe that people will be staying away because of the pandemic," said Pastor Frank Wulf. "We will continue to livestream services in an effort to accommodate the spiritual needs of people who choose to stay away."
Update: The church announced that its Sunday worship service on March 15 will be its last until Easter Sunday, April 12. All other meetings at the church will also be cancelled.
Many other churches are also turning to live streaming or broadcasting video over Facebook, YouTube and other online services.
Los Angeles Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez said the church is in the process of live streaming daily masses in addition to Sunday masses in the wake of the pandemic, which has prompted the state to order the cancellation of any events with more than 250 people.
The Echo Park United Methodist launched its first broadcast on the same day many streets around the church were closed for the L.A. Marathon. Those closures probably contributed to poor attendance that Sunday, but Wulf said that he had no doubt that worries about COVID-19 also played a significant role in keeping his parishioners away.
He assumes that most of the persons who will be skipping services will be seniors over 60, who are responding to recommendations that the elderly avoid large gatherings, like church services, since they have proven to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
"If necessary, and if city, state or federal officials request us to do so, we will suspend our in-person worship services altogether," said Wulf. "As you can imagine, this will not be easy for the church, but we need to do what we need to do to be part of the solution to make sure that this growing pandemic is brought under control."
If that becomes the case, you can always tune into the Sunday service on Facebook.