‘Facebook church’: Charlotte’s faithful find ways to worship on a snowy day

Many Charlotte-area churches canceled their services on Sunday because of the weather.

But not all.

St. Peter Catholic Church in uptown held its regular Sunday morning Masses at 9 and 11:30.

Each drew between 75 and 100 worshipers on what was the second Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. James Shea.

Parishioners from St. Peter Catholic, Charlotte’s oldest Catholic church, chipped in with shovels before the Masses to scrape away slippery ice near the entrance.

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At Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, members worshiped online instead of in the church sanctuary.

The Rev. John Cleghorn, the church’s minister, and Gail Henderson-Belsito, its director of worship and congregational care, co-led a service from their respective breakfast tables at their separate homes.

Cleghorn said about 165 people tuned in live via the church’s closed group page on Facebook. They heard Scripture readings, a sermon and prayers during the one-hour online service.

“And people were able to respond in real time,” said Cleghorn. All told, more than 350 comments were made on the Facebook page during the service.

Cleghorn said the technology enabled the congregation to share their prayers and love during a sad week when there were two deaths among the Caldwell faithful.

“People wanted to be together and convey their support for the families,” he said. “And it allowed us to share our mutual mourning and grief.”

Among the comments made during the service:

“Hear our prayers for Iine men, first responders, police and others out there helping others,” wrote member Emily Cox Craton.

“Facebook Live makes the online service more personal. It’s special to read these exchanges ... things we might have missed in person,” wrote member Lisa Raymaker.

And after the service, member Johnny Johnson posted this to his Facebook page:

“I’m actually sitting by my fire and Christmas tree during the ice storm. We still had church though ... Facebook church, and it was wonderful!”

Tim Funk has covered faith & values for the Charlotte Observer for 15 years. He has won three national awards from the Religion News Association and numerous awards from the North Carolina Press Association. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.