GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – During the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the 17th Training Wing Chapel is turning to technology to ensure members still have access to the spiritual support they need.
Through various video streaming services, the chapel has put together a comprehensive plan that gives parishioners virtual access to the service they are unable to attend due to the pandemic.
“When this all started, I began talking to other chaplains to see our options,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeremiah Blackburn, 17th TRW chaplain. “Our faith and community are important to stay connected to, especially in times like these.”
The chapel hosted Catholic Mass through Facebook Live for the first time on Easter Sunday, April 12, and the Protestant virtual services started a week prior through the Zoom video chat platform.
The virtual services are catching on, with the audience for the protestant services more than doubling from the first week to the second.
“It’s starting to grow,” said Blackburn. “There have been lessons learned and it has been a great experience.”
Other bases have moved virtual as well with several events being streamed, and Goodfellow plans to start offering more than just services. The chapel staff wanted to begin with worship services and gain some interest before expanding into other activities.
“We are starting to offer virtual bible study and marriage classes,” said Blackburn. “We also have a ‘staycation’ for married couples, which will happen next weekend [weekend of April 24].”
They are also hosting a virtual talent show at Crossroads on April 24, since the last scheduled talent show was canceled due to distancing requirements.
The live-stream technology gives the chapel staff a way to fully integrate the audience into the experience and allows multiple inputs, so the chaplain can run the service from base, the band can perform from home to complete the experience while maintaining safety during the pandemic.
The Goodfellow Chapel Facebook page has information and links to all virtual services and events, as well as contact information for off-base faith resources as well.