Go Tell It On the Mountain: An Online Church with an In-Person Option

Go Tell It On the Mountain: An Online Church with an In-Person Option

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In another episode of Go Tell it On The Mountain, Executive Conference Minister the Rev. Darrell Goodwin interviewed his own pastor: the Rev. Timoth Sylvia, pastor of the Newman Congregational Church in Rumford, RI.

Rev. Sylvia explained his unusual name (a high school friend called him Timoth instead of Timothy, and it stuck, so he had it legally changed) and his feeling of a particularly strong call to serve at Newman. 

"It was an experience for me that I I'd not felt as strong a sense of call to other ministries as I did to this particular one. And I joked with the search committee on my first night of interviewing, I ended by saying 'I'm pretty clear that God is calling me here. You all need to catch up with that.' And they did." Rev. Sylvia has been at the church for eight years.

Rev. Goodwin asked him about how the church has been doing ministry through the pandemic. Rev. Sylvia said that when COVID hit, the church had not been live streaming worship at all. 

"You know, going back to the very beginning of the COVID pandemic, when our leadership was meeting trying to determine 'do we worship this coming Sunday' with all of the news that was coming out about COVID, one of our members named in that conversation that there's an element of this experience that was exciting. The fact that we were going to have to innovate, we were going to have to be creative," he said. 

So, he said, his church - like so many others - had to scramble to figure out what to do.

"I'll say that for these now nearly two years, there has continued to be that element of excitement in trying, you know, in determining how is it that God is calling us to be church in such a unique time and a unique way?" he said.

Sylvia said the first online experiences were "rocky," with him just doing musings live on Facebook.

"We were just like - how do we still connect with people? And we've been able to progress. We now live stream our worship services. And of course they're online, accessible at all times. So we have folks worshiping with us live on Sunday mornings and then accessing worship at other times throughout the week as well."

Rev. Sylvia said because of the initial experiences with worship, all the church's ministries them moved online except for food distribution, which moved to the parking lot.

"Even our knitting group went online," he said. "Some of the language that that has been used now in our leadership conversations is that we have become an online church now with an in-person option for worship, as we've been able to be back in the building again, but all of our ministries still continue to have that online component ... Even once we're able to fully be in person together, some ministries have determined that their ministry will just be online, in part because we are now able to connect with folks outside of our geographic area. For those ministries, that's where some of that excitement really has come in, in that creating new ministries or being creative in our existing ministries to be able to make them accessible for folks and to be able to now connect with individuals that we never would have met, who more than likely will never step through our doors."

Rev. Goodwin also asked Rev. Sylvia about his emergence on TikTok, where under the handle @revtimoth he has amassed a following of almost 90,000 people. Rev. Sylvia explained that he shifted his energy from Facebook to TikTok just to try it out.

"I recognized that the progressive Christian message was something a lot of people were hungering for on that particular platform, and I started getting a following of folks who were engaging with the content that I was creating," he said.

He said he initially did not lift up his connection to Newman, as he didn't want to expose them to the negative voices.

"Our leadership had conversation about it and we fully understood this to be an incredible opportunity for evangelism. And it has been that. We now are connecting with folks who find their way to Newman through my particular TikTok account, who are now worshiping with us on Sunday mornings. They're active in our book discussions, our Bible studies, our various other ministries again because they are living off in other states or countries and can access it online. So it's been an incredible experience to now actually be a part of what is this growing community of progressive Christian clergy on TikTok, that have millions of views of content and so many individuals who are coming and seeking out that sort of affirming voice. It's incredible to see. Absolutely incredible."

Rev. Goodwin will be worshipping at Newman Congregational on Sunday, Feb. 20. Worship will be held in person, as well as on the Newman UCC website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

Watch the full interview here:


 

Author

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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany is the Director of Media and Communications for the Southern New England Conference. 

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