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Pastor offering online sermons

February 25, 1999

Online PastorBRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Parishioners who miss Sunday services at Dual Highway Church of God can catch the sermons on reruns - on the Internet.

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The Pentecostal church, at 1515 Dual Highway in Hagerstown, is one of a small but growing number of churches across the nation that is posting sermons on the World Wide Web.

The Rev. Jim L. Hamby said he has received e-mails from around the globe as well as feedback from his own congregation.

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For a $10 fee, Hamby sends a tape-recorded version of his sermon - taken straight from Sunday services - to a Web master who digitizes it and puts it on the Internet.

Anyone with a computer, modem and audio capabilities can listen to the sermon.

"It's just like they're sitting out in the congregation," he said. "The quality is very good. It's surprising."

Sermon titles include "How to Have a Miracle," "I'm Dreaming of a Right Christmas" and "Jesus' 3 Cheers to You."

In addition to the eight audio sermons, Hamby has posted several texts of sermons.

"It gives my ministry exposure. I've had it pulled up from several foreign countries," he said.

Hamby said he has gotten e-mails from people in South Africa and Korea, among other places.

Hamby and other area ministers said they were not aware of any other local minister who puts sermons on the World Wide Web, although Hamby's site includes links to several ministers in other parts of the country who do.

Hamby has no plans to replace his church building with a virtual church, though.

"There's too many things to get out of being there," he said. "It's just like television preachers. It's a good addition, but I don't think people could get as much by sitting at home."

What it can do is give people a chance to hear sermons from ministers of other denominations, Hamby said.

Hamby's more computer-savvy parishioners said they love the idea of sermons on the Web.

Williamsport resident Brenda Banzhoff, who attends Hamby's services and teaches Sunday school, said she gets ideas not only from Hamby but from other online ministers.

"I like to hear different opinions from different speakers," she said.

Because the Internet is accessible 24 hours a day, Banzhoff said it is more convenient than television.

"You can get to it quicker and you don't have to wait for that person to come on TV," she said.

Hagerstown resident Shurl Bussard also approved.

"It's a good way to minister to people," she said. "If you're home sick and don't have an opportunity to get out, you have that to fall back on."

Listening to sermons on the Web also gives you the editing ability you'd have listening to a cassette tape. Listeners can stop a sermon and pick it up later, rewind and listen to a part over again and even print it out.

This helps people better digest a sermon, said Bussard, who likes to study different Bible translations.

"Sometimes, a lot of people don't understand," she said.

Hamby, 48, said he did not get his first computer until about 2 1/2 years ago. Since then, he has leapt into the new medium, posting text versions of his sermons about two years ago and audio versions about a year ago.

Hamby, who became pastor at the church 5 1/2 years ago, said his father was the congregation's leader in the mid-1960s when it was on Rose Hill Avenue.

"Nobody had any idea of this then. They had computers, but not in the house," he said. "It's definitely a new day as far as information - in every area."

Hamby said churches probably have been slower to discover the Internet than have other segments of society, but he added that he thinks it is the wave of the future.

"The more pastors and churches wake up to it, the better it will be," he said. "There's certainly enough garbage on the Internet. We've got to put something good on it."

The church's Web site can be found at members.aol.com/jhamby1878/index.html.

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