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'Facebook church' connects worshippers

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" may be the United States Postal Service's unofficial motto, but it could also apply to Calvert City United Methodist Church in Kentucky, thanks to a little help from Facebook.

"We do not often get (severe) winter weather," says the Rev. Eddie Bromley, pastor of Calvert City. "It tends to pass to the north or south of us, hitting either southern Illinois or western Tennessee. This often happens – even when we are forecast to get inclement weather – which makes it very difficult for schools, churches and other groups to make weather-related decisions."

This was the case one weekend in December 2013. "We were forecast to have bad weather all weekend, but as of 7 p.m. on Saturday, nothing had fallen in the form of precipitation," Bromley recalls. "It was nearly 10 p.m. before it was clear that the weather would be too bad for people to get out the next morning."

Realizing he needed quickly to communicate with his parishioners, Bromley posted a note on the church's Facebook page, telling them the church would not open for Sunday worship. Shortly thereafter, Bromley posted another note stating he would post an interactive devotion and message at 10 a.m. on Sunday. He invited members to log on to Facebook, read the message, and post their thoughts and questions. He also mentioned doing prayers the same way.

One hundred ten people – about 71 percent of the average weekly attendance of 154 – saw the Saturday evening posts.

At 10 a.m. the next day, Bromley posted his devotion. By 10:15, 60 people had seen the message; later that day, 110 people had seen it. When Bromley posted prayer concerns a few minutes after posting the devotion, more than a dozen people added prayers to the page, and 60 people read them. Later that day, the total number of people reading the prayers also reached 110.

"The next Sunday," Bromley says, "dozens of people made comments about how 'Facebook church' helped them feel connected to their congregation in spite of being snowed in."

Cindy Solomon is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Franklin, Tennessee.

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