Island pastor delivers virtual service after being snowed in

Heavy snow and icy roads led a number of churches across P.E.I. to cancel services this Sunday, but one Island pastor wasn't going to let the weather stop him from bringing the members of his parish together.

'It was really great to be able to be a part of the worship time'

Heavy snow and icy roads led a number of churches across P.E.I. to cancel services Sunday morning, but one church in Hampton found a new way to bring parishioners together despite the weather - through a virtual service. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Heavy snow and icy roads led a number of churches across P.E.I. to cancel services this Sunday, but one Island pastor wasn't going to let the weather stop him from bringing the members of his parish together.

He delivered a virtual service.

Pastor Aaron Reimer said when he looked out of his window on Sunday he didn't want people taking the risk of getting behind the wheel and driving the rural roads to Island Wesleyan Church.

He said the snow was piled so high on his own driveway he couldn't dig his car out in time for the service.

But, Reimer said didn't want to cancel the church's first service of 2019. So, he grabbed his guitar, logged on to Facebook, and broadcast live so people could watch from their homes.

Pastor Aaron Reimer says it's the first time the church has ever done a virtual service. After a positive response, he plans to do it again. (Shane Ross/CBC)

"I thought why not have a chance to get together online and not miss the opportunity to worship together this morning," Reimer said. 

He said it was the first time he'd used Facebook Live for a church service and more than 60 people tuned in at some point, many of whom added comments as he spoke.

"Everybody really appreciated the chance to engage that way," Reimer said. "It was really neat to have people going back and forth during our worship time, a bit of interaction between songs and before the sermon to say hi and offer each other some virtual hugs and best wishes." 

Creating more opportunities to connect 

Reimer said he's always trying to find news ways to create connections within his church community. He records all of his regular services and posts them on the church's Facebook page afterward, but said he's never had the chance to do it live before. 

He said after seeing the positive response from those who turned in, he hopes to do it more often — and not just on storm days. 

Reimer says the service had dozens of viewers throughout the broadcast, with some people from as far as Ontario and Texas. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"There are people who can't get out on any given Sunday and there are people whose schedule don't allow them to get there on Sunday morning. I think it's also important that they not be excluded from community just because their schedule isn't lining up for it or their health isn't lining up for it," he said.

Reimer said while coming together as a community on Sunday mornings is important, he hopes he can use this experience to create other ways for parishioners to connect with each other, even when they can't be physically be in the same place. 

Some tuning in from away

The virtual service was particularly special for Hazel McLeod, who tuned in from Acton, Ont. She's Reimer's mother-in-law and said she was scrolling through Facebook this morning while sick and stuck at home. 

"It was really a pleasant surprise when I found out," McLeod said. "We haven't had that many opportunities over the years because [we] have lived in different places."

Reimer said a prayer at the end of the service and thanked everyone who watched. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"It was really great to be able to be a part of the worship time."

McLeod said she had met many of the other people watching the live service during her visits to the Island and it was a great way to feel connected to the church from afar. 

Reimer said despite being snowed in, he's glad he was able to bring the sermon to many within the church community and will be using Facebook live for all future storm days.

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About the Author

Brittany Spencer

Reporter

Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: brittany.spencer@cbc.ca