Our life together online
Elk City and Carter churches partner in worship via Internet
By CHRIS KINYON SCHUTZ
In rural western Oklahoma, a cyberspace pairing between tiny Carter UMC and a large Elk City congregation enhances Sunday worship for the few and the many.
Some 15 miles southwest of Elk City, Carter’s pastoral leadership is "TBS" ("To Be Supplied"). The church does not have an appointed pastor and can’t always count on a lay speaker to fill the pulpit, but members still gather there for worship. And last year, via Internet, they began sharing in the worship hour with Elk City.
Elk City UMC is exploring ways to use the Internet for outreach to "smaller congregations who cannot afford a pastor," said Carlos Ramirez, associate pastor. "It’s another door for a church."
Rev. Ramirez, who describes himself as a "technical-geek person," introduced a live-streaming system to Carter.
On Sundays the system is used, the Carter congregation of about a dozen logs into the Elk City church’s website and prepares to worship along with about 300 people in the larger church. The Carter worshippers follow the liturgy in bulletins supplied by Elk City.
The system is a work in progress, said Elk City member Terry Jordan, self-described "unofficial coordinator" who travels to Carter to serve as facilitator. "Everybody enjoys it," he said. "It can’t replace a live service, but they enjoy it."
One highlight for the smaller group is getting to see and hear the larger church’s contemporary praise band, Jordan said.
Members at Carter are learning the ins and outs of operating the Internet setup themselves, Jordan said. On a Sunday he was absent, "two or three people streamed the service all by themselves."
He said there are still glitches; the livestream can stall during the service. "That’s the only downside. That’s something we’re working on resolving."
The livestream link is not used every Sunday. Jordan also is one of Elk City’s exceptional group of certified lay speakers that fill pulpits in the region when needed. Jordan and others sometimes preach in person at Carter.
During the early stages of the livestream programming, Carter members welcomed the chance to hear a sermon series by Terry Koehn, Elk City’s senior pastor. He preached on "The Five Ships of Ministry"—worship, discipleship, stewardship, leadership, and fellowship.
Elk City hopes to expand the outreach beyond Carter to other small churches, said Rev. Koehn. "The idea in part was to get it smooth with them," he said. "The technology is such that just about any church of any size can access it and install it."
Ramirez estimated the cost of acquiring the necessary computer, projector, and large screen at $2,000. Such a system can also make possible remote training opportunities, Bible studies, and seminars, Koehn said.
To view videos from Elk City UMC: www.elkcityumc.com.