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Some churches are livestreaming their Sunday services to help stay-home worshippers stay connected. Screengrab of Paya Lebar Methodist Church's livestream recording on February 16.

“Traffic exploded!” said the text from 30-year-old Kevin Ng, referring to visitors to his newly-launched Streams of Life website, a one-stop resource on taking church online, with free how-to guides on setting up pre-recorded videos and livestreams.

Including hardware “ingredient” lists and even relevant government advisories, the online resource centre is an initiative by Ng’s IT firm, ThunderQuote, and The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS). It was launched less than 24 hours after news broke on February 12 that several staff members from Grace Assembly Of God were confirmed COVID-19 cases.

On the night of February 12 itself, Ng felt supernaturally prompted to start building the site and got to work. His efforts were validated over the next few days as requests for help flooded in and several large churches cancelled on-site services and switched to livestreams.

Taking church online

To date (February 20), there are 85 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Seven churches have been affected.

One of these, Paya Lebar Methodist Church (PLMC), livestreamed its English and Mandarin services on February 16, complementing ongoing gatherings in its church building. These “went smoothly and clearly”, according to a statement released the next day.

Photo of Rev Kow Shih Ming, at Paya Lebar Methodist Church's livestreamed service last week. Photo from PLMC's Facebook page.

Pressing on: Rev Dr Kow Shih Ming, pastor-in-charge of Paya Lebar Methodist Church, addressing the congregation via a livestream on Sunday, February 16. Photo from PLMC’s Facebook page.

Like PLMC, RiverLife church kept its Sunday programme going but announced that it would livestream the English worship service for those who were unwell and staying home. Church Of Our Saviour did the same, because members who stay home are “still very much a part of our family”.

Overall, church attendance across the island dipped last weekend. 

Small and mid-sized churches are "underprepared" for situations like this, said Ng, who noted that it could be a lack of knowledge, manpower or resources. Photo of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC)'s audio-visual team during their live-streamed service this week. Photo courtesy of FCBC.

The Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) congregation was asked to stay home, while the audio-visual team worked behind the scenes to produce a livestream of its Sunday (February 16) worship service. Photo courtesy of FCBC.

Among the larger churches that cancelled physical services altogether were Faith Community Baptist Church, City Harvest Church and Adam Road Presbyterian Church. 

Daunting task for many

Ng noted that not every organisation has been able to respond to the COVID-19 situation by going digital quickly. Small and medium-sized churches are struggling because of the lack of manpower, expertise or resources, or a combination of all three.

Recounting the Christian community’s buzz on February 12, Ng spoke of the burden he and his two ThunderQuote co-founders, Tan Junming and Emil Tan, felt upon hearing the news about Grace AOG at 6pm.

The three of them worked together through the night and were finally able to get Streams Of Life and the free software up and running by 5am for a soft launch. Only then did they break for a nap.

Close to 70 people signed up for Streams Of Life Livestream workshop held on Wednesday, February 19, in partnership with Singapore Bible College. Participants were taken through the basics of a livestream set up and were introduced to the various tools that are available to them. Photo courtesy of ThunderQuote.

Close to 70 people signed up for Singapore Bible College’s Livestream workshop held on February 19 in partnership with Streams Of Life. Participants were taken through the basics of a livestream set-up and were introduced to the various tools available to them. Photo courtesy of ThunderQuote.

“Given the high transmission rate (of the virus), we knew that more and more churches would eventually have to livestream and pastoral staff would need time to set up,” Ng said.

“We were quite worried. In general, churches are very underprepared for situations like this. It is a daunting task for many smaller churches.” 

Volunteers for Streams Of Life headed to Sim Lim Square to find equipment and tested the set ups recommended. Photo courtesy of Kevin Ng/ThunderQuote.

Volunteers for Streams Of Life headed to Sim Lim Square to find equipment and proceeded to test the set-ups recommended. Photo courtesy of Kevin Ng/ThunderQuote.

Save the stumbling

ThunderQuote was started in 2016 by the three men with the intention of helping churches and charities run procurement, digital solutions and data analytics. The passages of Scripture that convicted them were  Isaiah 27:1-6 and Proverbs 24:10-12.

“IT is a very un-sexy business, but the frontliners need good infrastructure to support them.”

While the Isaiah passage was about how making peace with the marketplace will bring fruit to “all the world”, the Proverbs verse was a direct rebuke to the three ex-schoolmates. Ng shared that they were not willing at first to step out in faith to start an IT services business catering to churches and charities.

But God challenged them: “You cannot say, ‘You don’t know.’ Cannot say, ‘Not my business.’ Save your brother who stumbles.”

Citing ThunderQuote’s work with clients like BSS and Hope Initiative Alliance, Ng said: “IT is a very un-sexy business, but the frontliners in church, charities and missions need logistics and support. They need good infrastructure in place. We make sure they are provided for.”

Support across churches

With the COVID-19 situation, they hope the Streams of Life tool “will be of some small help in terms of guidance”, Ng said, adding that they still have a huge task ahead of them.

The ThunderQuote team is training and equipping church staff, but are also calling for volunteers and aid as well. “People are messaging us – we need a lot of help!”

Ng has put out a call for anyone able to fund and/or contribute audio-visual equipment for churches that do not have the necessary, as well as provide volunteer manpower to operate them.

“It’s a good chance for people to support other churches and build unity across the churches in Singapore,” said Ng. “We are praying for people to step up and help others in their time of need!”

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Volunteers are needed to help operate audio-visual equipment, run livestreaming set-ups and coordinate the help desk at Streams Of Life. Hardware such as webcams and DSLR/camcorders with clean HDMI output are also required. Sign up here.

About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Salt&Light writer Huey Ying is a millennial with a résumé to prove it – she was a plankton-sized part of the finance industry before serving in a Christian organisation. She loves the sea and you will find her somewhere near the water during her holidays.