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Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar

Churches in Hong Kong use social media to worship, in spite of Sunday typhoon

Church leaders say preaching online is a good way to keep in touch with followers when the weather puts paid to usual service

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 2:15am

Normal services will be resumed at Hong Kong’s churches on Sunday, after Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar led to regular meetings being cancelled last week.

But while the city was whipped by wind and rain that would not look out of place in a biblical scene, ministries still managed to reach their followers, by using social media.

Protestant congregations used the modern tools to stay connected with their congregation, despite the No 8 typhoon warning.

They ranged from the more traditional Anglican St Andrew’s Church Kowloon to local independent fellowships such as the Fuk Lam Church in Yau Ma Tei.

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And the churches’ leaders said they would do it again, next time a typhoon hits on a Sunday.

Many public and private organisations cancel events when there is an extreme weather warning. On July 23 this year, also a Sunday, when Tropical Storm Roke hit the city and the No 8 signal was issued, many church services were cancelled.

And when the No 8 signal came early on Sunday August 27, Alex McCoy, vicar of St Andrew’s Church, decided to give a three-minute sermon live over Facebook, choosing an apt topic for the day: the story of Jesus calming the storm. By Friday, the video had been watched 4,500 times.

“People are stuck in their apartment anyway, using social media and watching TV ... so we wanted to encourage them to learn from the Bible,” McCoy said.

Reverend Woody Chung Chun-sing, from Fuk Lam Church, said that during Roke his church sent out a video sermon through WhatsApp when the Sunday service was cancelled.

“When Pakhar came, we decided to go live on Facebook,” Chung said. “The one-hour service attracted more than 4,200 views so far ... when our meeting place can only fit 400 people.”

Chung said he would consider preaching live over Facebook again, next time a No 8 signal puts paid to his Sunday service.

Andrew Ma Man-joe, a fellowship leader of Kingdom Family Church in Kwun Tong, also said social media had helped his group worship despite the typhoon.

But instead of using a free-of-charge service, his group subscribed to a paid video conferencing website.

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“It helped us to interact more ... instead of just following the worship [songs] and listening to the sermon,” Ma said.

While Ma and Chung agreed that social media and live video platforms could help churches reach out to non-believers, Reverend Sam Chung Shu-sum, senior pastor at Assemblies of God West Post Church, said clerics should use the tools only occasionally.

“We also used Facebook live on August 27 ... but live internet broadcast can only be a contingency, because it can’t replace the gathering of Christians for fellowship and worship,” Chung said.

A spokesman for the local Catholic diocese said none of its priests had gone live on social media during last weekend’s storm. It only used WhatsApp and social media to announce extra masses once the typhoon passed.