How we stay connected through online worship

How we stay connected through online worship
Written by Catherine Headley

In the fall of 2010, our family moved from Orlando, FL to Doha, Qatar for a job opportunity with Qatar Airways.

While we were excited about the new opportunity, it was difficult to think about leaving our wonderful church home. At the time we were very active in the contemporary community of a local United Methodist Church in Orlando. We participated in bible studies and enjoyed sending our kids to Vacation Bible School each summer.

Before moving, I started researching schools and potential churches in the area. My first big surprise came when I learned that Sunday was considered to be part of the work week in Qatar, while Friday and Saturday served as the weekend. I started learning more about how Christianity fit into the culture of Qatar, and I knew it was going to be much different than what my family was accustomed to.

We didn’t know anyone when we first arrived.

I was overwhelmed at the sheer amount of traffic, what seemed like constant construction, and the insane driving culture! The more people I met, the more I found they didn’t regularly attend any organized church services.

We gradually fell into a pattern of spending Friday mornings at home relaxing, recovering from the busy week. We visited the local Anglican church in Doha, but didn’t feel the connection we were hoping for. Finding a church became even more difficult for us, when my husband Roger joined a men’s ice hockey league.

That’s when my sister, Lynn, introduced us to the online campus of Highland Park United Methodist Church.

My nephews, Patrick and Bobby, often sing with the youth choir on Sunday mornings. Whenever they had a solo, my sister would text us, along with our parents in Augusta, GA. Together, we would all log on and watch the service, us from Doha and my parents in Georgia.

We greatly enjoyed watching Rev. Rasmussen and looked forward to each new sermon series.

The time difference was sometimes difficult. In the fall, I would find myself with headphones on, watching from the bleachers of the school swimming pool as Chauncey finished swim training. But come spring, the time difference meant we could gather around the iPad at dinner. We would spend our meal eating and worshipping online with our Dallas family.

At the end of each service, we would watch eagerly, as my sister made her way to the front of the Sanctuary, look into one of the cameras and give us a quick wave and smile. The kids and I would excitedly wave back, tears streaming down my face for reasons I still find difficult to explain.

One year, we were able to visit Dallas over the Christmas holiday and worship in person at the church we had grown to call our own. While we had been there before, it somehow felt more personal and meaningful this time. We got to meet Rev. Rasmussen after the service. The kids, of course, thought he was a rock star because we’d watched him on TV.

Before our visit over Christmas, I had listed a prayer request on the online check-in form. A close friend’s sister had recently been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. We were all worried about her and her young family. Rev. Phil Dieke, with HPUMC, immediately followed up on the prayer request. I was so excited to tell my friend that our church family in Dallas was praying for her sister. It was meaningful to see him while we visited over Christmas, and update him on her condition.

I love seeing how much my kids look forward to our time watching HPUMC and Rev. Rasmussen online.

As we clean up the kitchen after dinner each Sunday, we chat about that day’s message.  It helps us feel connected to our family in Dallas and Augusta, even though we are thousands of miles apart.

For one hour, we are all in the same place, at the same time, experiencing the same message of love and hope.