Every day, millions of people head to Twitch to get their fix of their favourite gaming streamers – or to stream to others and chase online fame.
One of the guiding principles of all religions is a strong sense of community and this has been tested to its limits since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic. The comfort that people take from their faith and the people and support network that often surrounds it cannot be understated. Indeed, the pandemic has increased Google searches for ‘prayer’ to the highest levels ever recorded, as people seek spiritual reassurance in the online world.
It seems that they’re doing the right thing. ‘Superspreading Events’ in faith communities have been widely reported in the media throughout the pandemic. Even the World Health Organisation stepped in, recommending that – where possible – worshippers should use technology such as live-streaming, television, radio and social media. Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and others have adapted to their changed circumstances, offering ‘virtual’ gatherings, assemblies, lessons and services online.
In Africa, faith organisations have also played an important part in spreading essential safety messages during the pandemic. Bishop David Oginde of Christ Is the Answer Ministries of Nairobi, Kenya reaches around 200,000 people every Sunday through television, radio and online broadcasts. “We encouraged people to wash their hands, sanitise, to keep distance and stay at home,” he says. Similarly, Nairobi’s Mamlaka Hill Chapel now regularly streams to a congregation of over six thousand subscribers on YouTube, bringing music, prayer, education, contemplation and Sunday services into their homes.
“The pandemic has obviously affected our church and also other churches. We have not been an exception. We’ve not been able to gather in the way we used to gather,” explains Rev. John Agagwa of Mamlaka Hill Chapel. “With new regulations we have fewer people than normal and that has meant we’ve had to really think about how to still remain relevant to those who are not able to come and putting their safety first and still ministering them.” This has meant radically rethinking how they connect, creating a programme of socially distanced services which are also livestreamed and recorded for on-demand use.
One of the church’s senior pastors, the Rev. Samuel Ithiga, joined Mamlaka Hill Chapel in January 2009 as an intern and is now the resident ‘Media Pastor’. He and his fellow church leaders have made impressive progress in bringing the ministry of the chapel to a new online audience. “We began searching the kind of cameras that would be good enough quality and allow our viewers – because our congregation became viewers, watching us online – to have a wonderful experience.” They settled on the Canon EOS C100 Mark II because it offered “everything you would look for in video presentation”, as well as the all-important local after-sales service.
The church, whose motto is ‘empowered to transform’, have used their own tech savvy and the support of their suppliers to create a ministry that is every bit attuned to the internet generation. They not only have a presence on YouTube, but Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, showing an active, upbeat and busy church that reaches all ages and stages of life. Investing in the C100 Mark II has also allowed them to share their footage with television production companies, taking their message even further. “Church is about telling a story,” Rev. Ithiga adds. “And we feel that our story is the greatest story that has ever been told.”