FALMOUTH — When Facebook Live launched nearly a year ago it seemed more like the province of celebrities.
But now the social media platform is being used for more everyday purposes, including by churches who are live-streaming their weekly services to parishioners connected by smartphones, tablets or computers.
The Parish of the Holy Eucharist, based at Holy Martyrs in Falmouth, recently joined the ranks of those turning to Facebook Live to engage a broader audience.
However, Elizabeth Rosquete, operations manager for the parish, which also oversees churches in Yarmouth, Freeport and Gray, said “This is not a substitute for coming to Mass. The goal is to bring people back to the church.”
But, she also acknowledged that Facebook Live is allowing the church to reach “people that we may have been missing before.”
“I see it as a method of evangelizing,” Rosquete said. “Usually we reach a minimum of a couple hundred people during the live broadcast, many of whom are not parishioners.”
In addition, she said Facebook Live allows the parish “to keep parishioners who are unable to attend Mass either because they are physically unable or are away on vacation (connected to) our community.”
The response has been positive to the Facebook Live streams for the past several weeks at 4 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, according to Rosquete.
With the start of the Lenten season last week, the parish is also using Facebook Live to stream a weekday 5:30 p.m. Mass until Easter.
Using Facebook Live is “providing a chance to stream the beauty of the Catholic faith into the wider community living outside the walls of its churches,” a press release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said.
“Parish leaders hope that some of the viewers enjoying the live Masses online will be inspired to experience them in person,” the press release added. And, Rosquete said, “It’s such a simple thing to do. Hopefully it touches hearts and makes a big difference.”
The diocese did not say how many of its churches are now using Facebook Live, but many mainline churches have added the ability to live stream video in the last few years, including the Parish of the Holy Eucharist.
Right now, Rosquete said, Holy Martyrs is the only church in the parish set up with video streaming capability.
Rosquete said the parish also relies on its Facebook page as a place to post events, news and spiritual reflection for parishioners. And after the Facebook Live broadcast ends, video of each Mass remains on the page so that followers can watch the service at a time that’s more convenient.
So far, Rosquete said, “I have not heard any negative feedback.” She also said that several parishioners, one away in Florida for the winter and another recovering from surgery, have praised the new service.
When Facebook Live launched in early April of 2016, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform was designed to “make it easier to create, share and discover live videos.”
“(Facebook) Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket,” Zuckerberg said. “Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. When you interact live, you feel connected in a more personal way. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it’s going to create new opportunities for people to come together.”
The Rev. Antony Bass prepares for communion during the March 5 Mass at Holy Martyrs, which was streamed on Facebook Live.