Despite the waist-high drifts of snow that blocked their driveway, John and Gloria Hoda made it to church after Blizzard Nemo dumped more than three feet of snow across the state earlier this month.
On Feb. 10, with most state roads impassable, the Hodas settled on their couch, logged on to St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church in New Haven's Facebook page and caught the 10: 30 a.m. service.
There on the computer screen was Rev. Alex Dyer leading a virtual service complete with recorded hymns and readings. The Mass held in status updates.
"We were able to follow the service. We sang some beautiful music, said our prayers, and listened to the readings. It was a beautiful substitute to a real service," said Hoda, whose wife dubbed the experience "couch church" and posted a photograph of the couple on the church's Facebook page.
While most churches canceled Sunday services following the blizzard, (the Archdiocese of Hartford issued a statement that Catholics could sit out Mass) Dyer was among a number of enterprising clergy who held services on social media.
Dyer said more than 30 people participated in his virtual service, even some from as a far away as Nebraska and Texas.
"Nothing replaces the genuine community of coming together. My Facebook service wasn't’ intended to replace that, but when mother nature comes calling we have to be enterprising,” Dyer said.
Dyer's hour- long service on Facebook consisted of a sermon he had pre-recorded on video. He said he chose the liturgy of the Word most familiar to people, and collected hymns on YouTube and had typed up all the readings. He posted the words of the service via status updates and invited people to comment and like the hymns.
Meanwhile in Westport, Rev. Debra Haffner was holding her own service via Twitter.
A Jewish Unitarian Universalist minister and co founder and president of the Religious Institute , Haffner said the idea of holding worship service on Twitter came to her as she watched postings of church cancelations on social media. She has more than 2,000 followers on her @RevDebra Twitter account.
"A lot of people look forward to going to church all week long, so I thought why not on Twitter?" she said.
Her opening tweet read: "May we take time to be grateful for time together, for our safety, for heat and electricity, for virtual companions."
What followed was a 45 minute service with some 12 followers posting tweets that included metaphorical references to the snow that blanketed the state and prayers for those impacted by the storm.
"Praying with only 140 characters is a little challenging. At times it felt like speed dating, but it was lovely," Haffner said.
Dyer said he held a virtual service on Facebook during a previous storm a few years back, and believes churches should embrace technology and social media to connect with people.
Looking back, he admits that it would have been easier to cancel church service, but he's glad he pulled it off. There were some obvious perks: He wore his pajama bottoms during the service.
Dyer closed his virtual sermon with a post that read:
Let us go forth (if we can shovel out) in the name of Christ!
Response: Thanks be to God!!