On Sunday morning, Ed McLeod, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, posted an unusual call to worship on his Facebook page.
McLeod and his wife, Jenny, then made their way over icy streets to the church on Salisbury Street downtown, and at 10:30 a.m., standing alone in the chancel, he announced, “This is the day the Lord has made,” summoning a remote and chilly congregation to worship — on Facebook Live.
FPC was one of several churches in a snowbound Triangle that resurrected a once-familiar ritual Sunday — a broadcast of the regular service for shut-in members of the flock — with a technological twist, using Facebook’s video streaming service.
The McLeods improvised a tripod — placing a music stand on top of a couple of hymnals and draping Jenny’s iPad over it.
Speaking to a sea of empty pews, with only his wife attending, “felt like a seminary preaching class — except I had a much nicer critic,” McLeod said.
The church, with some reluctant prudence, had decided Saturday to cancel all Sunday morning services, McLeod said. “It is against my nature to cancel worship,” he added, explaining the inspiration for the Facebook alternative. “It just didn’t sit right with me.”
By late afternoon, nearly 2,800 people had watched.
Among others who reached out to the snowbound was James Barnwell, pastor of the non-denominational Transformation Christian Church in Raleigh. He streamed a service from an empty room on his Facebook page starting at 10 a.m.
Transformation, a 5-year-old congregation of about 600 members at 2300 Westinghouse Blvd. in Raleigh, usually holds three services each Sunday morning, with Barnwell delivering a different sermon at each. On Sunday, the flock multiplied — with more than 6,600 people watching at least part of his message on Facebook by late afternoon.
Nathan Rouse, pastor of Radiant Church on Destiny Drive in Raleigh, sat in front of his fireplace at 10:30 a.m. to deliver his scheduled sermon. By late afternoon, more than 1,000 people had tuned in, and more than 100 had commented on the broadcast.
For those who may have missed the impromptu services, Facebook Live videos — unless removed by the user who posted them — are available for replay after the streaming has ended.
Eric Frederick: (919) 829-8956. Twitter: @Eric_Frederick