The Rev. William J. Scott III has empowered his ministry through modern digitalization. With a warm embrace he uses technology, digital apps, and social media to manage multiple platforms for people to worship interactively, communicate efficiently, and expand the church’s reach during this pandemic.
“The church is not the building,” said Scott, pastor of the House of Faith Baptist Church-UCC. “ The church is the people. We are the church.”
The House of Faith Baptist Church has deep roots in Philadelphia’s Logan area. Assembled 47 years ago by a neighborhood choir, it’s first pastor was Bishop Kermit L. Newkirk Jr., who served from 1973 until 2017. The church was originally named the Harold O. Davis Baptist Memorial Church. Scott is their second pastor to be installed.
“The church installed me as their second pastor in April, 2017,” Scott said. “We often use that phrase from the song ‘On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand.’
“When all of the ground was sinking, we stand. Through all the trials and challenges that we’ve come through we’ve still been able to be here in the Logan triangle and we’re thankful to God for it.”
Scott told the story of how houses in Logan began to sink in the 1980s because they were built above the water and the foundation was shaken. He said “everything around the church died in terms of land but the thing of the story is that the church was the only thing that was built on solid foundation.”
Now faced with another crisis, the novel coronavirus, Scott references the story of the sinking homes to remind people that The House of Faith Baptist Church has a solid foundation and will stand even during a pandemic.
“Things were really taking off, but then the coronavirus hit and we had to pull back. So what we started doing was delivering the Sunday services live on Facebook,” he said. “We were able to have members jump on to watch live and then also for our seniors who are not tech savvy, we would call in or have them call in to listen to the live service.”
According to the pastor, social media has enabled the church to reach about 1,100 to 1,500 people as they stream.
“People from different parts of the country were calling,” Scott said. “Even people from Italy were calling in and would say, ‘hey pastor we see you on Facebook Live, keep up the good work.’ It was a major encouragement to us.”
Luckily the church’s production team didn’t have to go out and purchase recording equipment.
“We were already prepared,” Scott said. “We had the equipment. Something just told me to have the equipment ready even before the coronavirus came. You really got to invest in your media department because we’re in this new modern world and you just don’t want to be behind.”
Much of the online success is due to the production team who works relentlessly.
“When the coronavirus hit I talked to my media team and they were like alright we’re ready pastor, let’s do this, let’s make things happen.
Providing virtual and digital options for service is “ easier for our people so they can stay safe,” said Scott.
“Ever since we started, we invested more in additional video cameras so they can get different shots of the sanctuary. We first started in a small room but because the people kept asking when are we coming back?, I thought to myself it is not good to come back yet. I just believed that this coronavirus is going to return specifically in the winter time. So I decided, since we can’t be in the sanctuary physically I’d let you be in there mentally.”
In attempts to give the best experience, Scott pre-records and now uses a motion camera. The crew shoots different parts of the sanctuary. Someone even records as they walk into the building so viewers can really feel like they are entering the building themselves.
“They feel like they’re in a HD or 3D type of situation,” Scott said. “Every Sunday members thank the media team or even say thank you pastor for making this possible for us to enjoy service and have a safe experience.”
Scotts admits that they had issues when they first started going live.
“We looked into a new program that can help our experience for our members,” he said. “We really been studying and reading up on how to make service better for our people. Our director of music Rodney Bradley and our production manager Stephen Parker, and audio and visual manager, Matthew Cooks, these guys have been amazing at making the House of Faith virtual worship the best for our members.”
While many churches are now online there are still some who still have mixed emotions about the new virtual experience.
For example, the Rev. Daniel Jackson of New Kingdom Baptist Church said it’s been challenging preaching to a camera in an empty church.
“I’m used to that call and response and we need it, it helps us know if we are connecting with our people,” he said. “I really love the people who I pastor to and not to be able to be with them has been challenging. None of us thought we would be in this place and going into it I thought it would just be temporary.
“We had to purchase equipment and weren’t prepared,” said Jackson. “The church has not taken a financial hit. “ God has blessed us financially, but it’s been difficult.”
The difficulties provide motivation.
“The work doesn’t stop,” Scott said.
Scott is looking forward to connecting with folks in person once again.
“I actually love it,” he said. “I still run the live service. I make sure that people on the phone call can hear the service. What we’ve done uniquely is allow comments to be seen on the screen and our people really love that interaction.”
The House of Faith Baptist Church services can be viewed on YouTube at House of Faith Baptist Church UCC. Sunday Service starts at 10 am and is streamed on Facebook Live at House of Faith Baptist UCC. It can also be heard on the Sunday Gospel Highway 11 radio station on Saturday at 2:30 pm.