The growing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing millions of people worldwide to stay home. Countries are taking extreme measures to limit travel and forcing social distancing and curfews. While these measures are making it difficult for congregants to attend their regular religious institutions, one church is continuing its innovative approach to communications. Last week, like many organizations, the Diocese of Grand Rapids in Michigan began conducting Sunday Mass without an audience. Using Videolinq, routine Sunday gatherings were replaced by virtual broadcasts allowing audiences of thousands to pray from home as they watched sermons on the diocesan website and social media platforms.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids was created in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII and today is home to 191,000 Catholics, 80 parishes and 31 Catholic schools across 11 counties of West Michigan. Amongst its many churches is the historic Cathedral of Saint Andrew.
On a recent weekend, as it does every week, the diocese broadcast its Sunday Mass onto its website, its Facebook page and through a local television station. To manage its digital needs, the diocese produced and sent a single, dedicated feed to Videolinq which then distributed it to Facebook as well as to the Videolinq-provided video player on the Diocese’s website. Besides viewing the original live feed, patrons can also view the on-demand video at any time on Facebook.
Given the current environment where gatherings are prohibited, the group expected increased online turnout but was still surprised by the actual figures. “For more than 60 years the diocese has had a televised broadcast of Sunday Mass, and for the past three years the same broadcast has been shared on Facebook. These are valuable tools to keep people connected during this time,” said Annalise Laumeyer, director of communications for the diocese. “While we expected an increase in online viewers because of the cancellation of public Masses, our online viewership is up 300% over the same time last year.”
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