How a thousand mile mourner can recieve gifts of pastoral care through online streaming
Greg Stovell · January 3, 2017
Some time ago, Sarah stopped by my office. She was visibly upset. She came to ask for prayer, as she received news that her sister had just died. They were very close in spite of the distance, with her sister Clara having moved roughly 1,000 miles away to Florida a few years prior.
“Will you be going to the service?” I asked.
“I can’t,” she replied. “It’s tomorrow.”
Sarah, while elderly, was healthy enough to make the trip, but her husband wasn’t. She was his primary caretaker as he was afflicted with early Alzheimer’s. She didn’t feel she could leave him alone or under the care of one of our deacons. Sarah was faced with both the grief of losing her sister, and with the isolation of not being with the rest of her family as they said goodbye to Clara and entrusted her into the arms of God. Sarah did not just want to be there, she needed to be there, for the sake of her own soul.
The next morning, as the service in Florida took place, I met Sarah in our chapel where we sat in silence, prayed and mourned together for an hour.
I so wished she could’ve made the trip, or at least I hoped she could’ve listened to it remotely somehow.
On that day, I thought how helpful it would’ve been if we could’ve met in front of a computer dis-play, launched a browser, and worshipped together along with the rest of the mourners in Florida. But it was not to be.
This happened more than 10 years ago, when most churches were barely working on com-pressing audio files to post sermons on their website. Thankfully times have changed since then, and while Sarah was not able to be present at her sister’s service, there are countless of others who today can worship with their church families in spite of mobility issues, illness, hospitalization and even travel plans.
Much has been said about streaming Sunday morning worship services. At First Presbyterian Church West Chester in southeastern Pennsylvania, we also offer online streaming for funerals and weddings as an extension of our pastoral care ministry. We open a private streaming ses-sion, which usually begins 10 minutes before the service and share the URL with the family a few days before. They in turn distribute it via email to those who are unable to make the trip.