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Making global connections on World Communion Sunday

By Deborah White

SUMMARY: The Rev. Robert “Bob” Morwell of Quincy, Ill., has discovered a cool way to celebrate the global connections of the church on World Communion Sunday.

In 2007, he made live video and audio connections with people in New Zealand, Chile, the Philippines, Liberia and Wales during the worship service at Quincy’s Union United Methodist Church. “The technology is not complicated,” he asserted. “It’s not hard to do.”

Morwell used a laptop computer, high-speed Internet service, a projection screen and a cell phone set to “speaker,” which he held up to the microphone in the sanctuary. 

Through the Yahoo!® Messenger program installed on his computer, Morwell projected live video on the screen from the Rev. Roy Pierson of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Birkenhead, New Zealand. Pierson spoke in front of a computer Webcam, using the same Yahoo program to transmit.

Pierson opened the service with a call to worship in English and Bismala, the language of the Republic of Vanuatu islands in the South Pacific. “We had him on the screen. The sound quality was as if we were across the street,” Morwell said.

Then United Methodist missionary Janet McCarty called from the Philippines via Yahoo!® Messenger, and a woman with her read Scripture in the Tagalog language.

Rebecca Harrell, a missionary at the Emana Project in Iquique, Chile, called on a cell phone during the worship service at Second Methodist Church. “A group of children sang ‘Jesus Loves Me in Spanish,’ and we sang it back in English,” Morwell added.

Morwell spoke next to the Rev. Samuel Quire, director of the Bishop Judith Craig Home, an orphanage in Liberia. He planned to connect with a chaplain in Antarctica, but bad weather interfered.

At the close of the service, Morwell showed live video of the Rev. John Davies, an Anglican priest in Wales, saying the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer (No. 602 in The United Methodist Hymnal) in English and in Welsh.

Morwell was inspired to plan the global worship service after discovering St Pixels, an Internet church based in the United Kingdom at www.stpixels.com. “Through St Pixels,” he explained, “I made the contacts in New Zealand and Wales.”

Other churches could make similar connections by arranging to speak with missionaries, he suggested.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Morwell said. “It really brought home the global, multicultural, multinational nature of the church.”

World Communion Sunday this year is Oct. 5. Resources are available at www.umcgiving.org/worldcommunion or by calling (888) 346-3862. World Communion Sunday, one of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings, provides scholarships for U.S. (racial- and ethnic-minority) and international students.


---Deborah White, associate editor of Interpreter magazine and Interpreter OnLine