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College part of virtual church service partnership

Barry McNamara
The Rev. Dr. Teri Ott
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – A virtual worship service to help keep the community connected and spiritually fed will be offered March 22 and March 29, thanks to a collaboration among the Monmouth College Chaplain's Office, Faith United Presbyterian Church in Monmouth and Sugar Tree Grove United Presbyterian Church in rural Warren County.

A recorded service will be uploaded to the YouTube channel of Monmouth College ( at 10:30 a.m. the next two Sundays. For the March 22 service, the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, dean of the chapel at the College, will preach on “Do Not Be Afraid.”

Ott helped organize the service with the Rev. Brandon Ouellette (a 2014 Monmouth graduate), who is Faith United’s pastor; her husband, Dan Ott, a Monmouth professor of philosophy and religious studies and the pastor at Sugar Tree Grove; and the Rev. Jessica Hawkinson, Monmouth’s associate chaplain.

“In these uncertain times, the church has had to adapt and discover new resources and new technologies, and three heads are better than one at putting that all together,” said Ouellette.

“We’ve been working all week on how to pull this off,” said Teri Ott. “It’s a great example of community collaboration, and it’s wonderful to see all those communities intersecting.”

So far, the virtual service is only planned for the last two Sundays in March.

“We want everyone to know it’s a grand experiment,” said Ott. “We’ll be trying this for two weeks, and then we’ll reassess. The churches might decide they want to start meeting in person again.”

The organizers want to make the services as accessible as possible to older members, so a DVD of the services will be delivered to those without Internet access.

“We’re trying to be safe and careful, but also keep our community involved,” said Ouellette. “Ministry doesn’t stop just because people can’t gather in a building. The church isn’t a building – it’s the people.”

“In these difficult days of social isolation, we hope to remind everyone how strong our connection is to each other as a community of faithful people seeking to do what is good and beautiful and just,” said Ott. “We hope people tune in and are inspired and encouraged.”

On Monmouth’s campus, the Chaplain’s Office leads a weekly chapel service during the noon hour every Monday during the school year. A version of that service will continue, in virtual fashion, beginning at noon March 23. Each week, Ott and Hawkinson will alternate going live on the College’s Religious and Spiritual Life Facebook page to offer a centering practice, receive joys and concerns from the community, and lead prayer.

“It’ll be like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ I’ll do the first one at (the College’s) Dahl Chapel, but then we’ll pop up in different locations,” said Ott.