Church Online At Any Age

Dorothy Gharis

Dorothy Gharis, age 102, worships online every week with White Rock UMC

Many United Methodists across North Texas enjoy worshiping online while on vacation or outside of their normal Sunday morning routines in the summer. For others, online worship is a lifeline to community that would not otherwise be possible.  

Dorothy Gharis, age 102, enjoys weekly worship with White Rock UMC in Dallas, from her residence in Garland. She watches on her tablet and finds connection to her church community through the prayers, music and sermons each week. Rev. Dr. Keith Payne Boone, White Rock UMC’s associate pastor of congregational care and senior life, brings Gharis communion once a month. This keeps her connected to the table fellowship of her church family. 

Rev. Dr. Boone describes the efforts the church has undertaken since the start of the pandemic to connect and care for homebound members.

“At White Rock UMC, we started a monthly print and email newsletter for our seniors," he said. "We make monthly doorstep deliveries of communion elements and seasonal gift bags for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July. We also make certain our homebound members receive calls and cards throughout the year.”

It’s no question that the pandemic pushed churches to get creative with outreach efforts and to engage online when that was not an option before. Now people are finding connection and cultivating community beyond the physical walls of churches, as more worship opportunities, discipleship studies and prayer resources are being offered online or in hybrid formats – both online and in person.

Rev. Phil Dieke, White Rock UMC's associate pastor of discipleship and digital ministry, noted, “At the start of the pandemic there were some who found it challenging to make online worship work, but the reality is we had Dorothy – at the ripe age of 100 at the time – who didn’t skip a beat and continued being one of the most consistent online worshipers throughout the pandemic. Still to this day she remains one of our most consistent online worshipers.” 

Rev. Dieke advises churches not to let ageism creep in: “Don’t think that online-specific ministries are reserved for Gen Z because there’s a clear benefit for online ministry for all generations."

Rev. Dieke’s focus is on making sure that online worshippers feel just as vital to the community as those who walk in the doors of the sanctuary.

“My role as digital pastor has been to ensure that they don’t feel like second-class citizens in our church,” he said. “Now I’m looking at how we can keep that innovative spirit of in-person ministry enhanced by digital ministry, even when a pandemic no longer necessitates it.” 

For congregants like Dorothy Gharis, online worship makes church possible again. And that is truly worth celebrating. 

Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2022