Vancouver Island, BC – At Christ Church, Oceanside, life took an unexpected but happy turn online with the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Rev. Ryan Matchett talked with Canon Phil Ashey about finding an audience online when the novel coronavirus shut his parish doors. He arrived with his wife and five daughters only 21 months prior to the pandemic hitting the Vancouver area. Christ Church has 75 members, and Fr. Ryan’s focus has been helping his parishioners reflect Jesus Christ in everything they say and do, helping them to be more public and missional. On the first Sunday they were closed down due to COVID-19, they put their service online through Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. They had 3500 views across all social media platforms, and 2500 unique viewers on Facebook alone, with each viewer tuning in from anywhere between a few minutes to the entire service. They knew they were hitting a nerve, and they began to develop their strategy.

“As excited as we were to reach so many with our service, we came to realize (through Facebook analytics) that we were only getting 3-5 minutes from most new viewers,” Fr. Ryan explained. “This led us to strategically use the opening minutes to pastor these people in the areas hardest hit by this pandemic: their mental health. What we are hearing from our community and neighbours is that they are struggling to emotionally and mentally cope, and the things they once relied on as coping mechanisms (work, tv, social media, alcohol, and consumerism) are no longer available, affordable or sufficient. This has woken up our community to a self-awareness of being spiritually ‘poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty’ and in need of spiritual help from a Savior who describes himself as ‘gentle and lowly in heart… giving rest for your souls.'”

As he described to Canon Phil, the experience of moving from and audience of 75 to more than 2000 has “stirred a confidence and spiritual energy in our church for the harvest, and not just for survival.” It serves as a great encouragement for churches who are thinking outside of the box during this pandemic and are moving their services to online platforms. The channel for Christ Church dealing with mental health is called Voice of the Heart.

Our readers are invited to connect with Christ Church, Oceanside through their Youtube channel (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KjFCjXcgx4&t=18s) or by following the parish on Facebook (https://m.facebook.com/christschurchvanisl).

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