SAN ANTONIO — During uncertain times, many people turn to religion, even if they’re not regular church goers.

  • Spiritual outreach options have changed due to social distancing measures in place
  • Sunday was San Antonio Mennonite Church’s first time broadcasting live online

But with social distancing measures in place, the options for spiritual outreach have changed. Houses of worship across the world are scrambling to protect their flocks from coronavirus, but still minister to their communities.

For some, this is the first time a service has been broadcast live online. That was the case on Sunday morning for the San Antonio Mennonite Church.

“I unfortunately had to bring one of my friends this morning," said Pastor John Garland on the Facebook Live feed, while holding a chicken puppet.

When Garland decided to live stream the service, he immediately wanted to find a way to explain to the children why they couldn’t come to church.

“What’s a virus?” the chicken puppet asked Garland.

“Well, chicken, a virus is something very, very little," Garland said. "It’s so little that you can’t see it.”

“So why’s it dangerous then?” the chicken asked.

Using Facebook Live, Garland and the chicken explained why they were in an empty chapel.

Then, Garland stood at the pulpit to give the weekly sermon to the congregation watching at home. He said about 40 families watched the live stream, with viewers all over the world.

“We can show solidarity with the people who are suffering around the globe due to this," Garland said. "It’s causing physical suffering and family division, and also, economic hardship and fear.”

But it wasn’t just unusual for the confused chicken.

“It’s very strange to people you love deeply to be communicating with them through sort of this, through a camera," Garland said.

Although the church leaders had been monitoring the outbreak, it was the school closings that motivated them to move the service online.

“It would be very disappointing if we had shut down all the schools but then still were spreading the virus in, in other places," Garland said.

The building might be empty right now, but Pastor Garland says the institution of church is still a place of service.

“I think it’s important for us to say that we’re not going to close down community. We’re going to change the way that we live together in a community so that we can protect the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods and support our health care workers," Garland said.