Churches take to YouTube, Instagram to spread holiday gospel

Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:15pm EST
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By Elizabeth Dilts

(Reuters) - The Christmas holiday brings peak attendance for most churches, and an increasing number of U.S. religious groups are using the boom time to wow parishioners with virtual choirs on YouTube and Instagram advent calendars.

More than 500 churches will stream Christmas sermons online this year, up from just a handful in 2007, said DJ Chuang, host of the Social Media Church, a podcast with church leaders about social media. Hundreds more started Instagram and Pinterest accounts this year to post photos of baptisms and quotes from the gospel, he said.

"Instagram is like the modern day stained glass window," Chuang said. "They use it to tell the stories of the church."

The online churches appeal to those who have moved away from their own parish, people who may be reticent to walk into an actual church and people who wish to attend a service outside normal times.

The New Jersey-based Liquid Church has had an online pastor since 2009, and took to YouTube last Christmas to share a virtual choir using videos from roughly 500 church members who attend services remotely.

A technician overlayed the voices from each of the videos to create a cohesive song and video of individuals in front of their computers at home singing "Silent Night" in three-part harmony, said pastor Kenny Jahng.

This year, the church will hold virtual communion, the religious sacrament where worshipers drink grape juice and eat bread. When members log on to the service, the pastor will tell them to get a glass of grape juice and any household bread.

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, which is based in California, is exploring how to get a PlayStation channel to stream its church services similar to the way Netflix streams movies.   Continued...

A screen displays the Instagram logo during a presentation by co-founder Kevin Systrom as he announces the launch of a new direct image messaging service named Instagram Direct in New York December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson