Stepping Up: Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church brings faith to the people, virtually

READY TO STREAM: From left, Andrew Calore, BCI Computers vice president, and Rev. Joshua Barrow, associate pastor for Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in East Greenwich. The church has installed equipment to livestream masses starting on March 29, along with creating new social media pages for parishioners. PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

EAST GREENWICH – Rev. Joshua Barrow is something of an anomaly for his generation. 

For one thing, he’s a Catholic priest. He also has bucked the millennial affinity for social media – until a few days ago, the 30-year-old never had a Facebook account.

But since Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church halted its services at the urging of state and federal officials, as well as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Barrow has upped his social media game while spearheading a $7,000-plus investment in equipment to start livestreaming weekend mass.

While churches across the state have turned to virtual services in recent weeks to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus, most have streamed using more basic equipment. That’s often included a cellphone on a tripod, and maybe a boom microphone, Barrow said.

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But Barrow, who lists building computers as one of his hobbies in his profile on the church website, wanted something a bit more sophisticated. So the church hired West Warwick-based BCI Computers to install a $3,500 video-production streaming system plus two $1,800 cameras. That price tag doesn’t include installation and labor costs.

“It is a lot of money,” Barrow admitted, adding that church donations have decreased without the physical collection during regular masses, though some members were still dropping off donations or contributing online.

But he considered the cost a worthwhile investment and a service for the many parishioners who had reached out requesting virtual services.

“The demand of the people has been, ‘We miss the mass. We want to see our mass and our priests,’ ” Barrow said. 

Barrow has also created Facebook and YouTube accounts for the East Greenwich church and signed up for software to enable the church to send text and email alerts to parishioners. The church plans to hold its first livestream mass on March 29 at 9 a.m. – a single service rather than the usual five per weekend, though Barrow said they might add more later on.

In a way, the crisis has expedited Barrow’s vision to turn a largely analog offering digital.

“I had always hoped we would set this up eventually, but did I imagine it would be this quickly? No,” he said.

In a time when hope seems increasingly diminished, Barrow stressed the importance of faith.

“Even if things get crazy here on Earth, we have something to look forward to in God,” he said. “In Christian religions, we have the crucifix as the ultimate example of evil and suffering … that is defeated. When you look at the cross, you see hope.”

Providence Business News is spotlighting nonprofits, companies and workers stepping up to challenges presented by the spread of the new coronavirus.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for PBN. Contact her at Lavin@PBN.com.

 

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