The Way We Do Church: Fr. John Kerns ’81 Goes Digital | University of Portland

The Way We Do Church: Fr. John Kerns ’81 Goes Digital

Fr. John Kerns in front of altar with logo that reads University of Portland Pilots Give Back Spring 2020When Archbishop Sample announced the cancellation of all Masses for the Portland metropolitan area, Fr. John Kerns ’81 started recording his homilies and daily masses for his church at Our Lady of the Lake (OLL), located in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Kerns has been updating his YouTube channel with a new video for his parishioners every day.

Kerns supported the rationale behind the move to cancel Mass; still, he felt concern for his community. “I was grieved by what this means to my parishioners, not being able to be nourished by the Eucharist and the Holy Mass and community gatherings,” he says.

So he picked up his iPhone and started recording. First up was a video reflection on St. Patrick’s Day. “I put that out there on Facebook and YouTube, and before I knew it over 2,000 people had viewed it, saying how helpful it was and that they needed to hear that message, and to keep doing this,” he explains. So he started making a video every day, some of which take about five to six hours to prepare. While the viewership for his later videos hasn’t been as robust as the first, he still gets about 200 people tuning in each day, more than the usual daily Mass. “There’s no substitute for Mass, but this can reach more people,” he says.

He also gets creative and caters to his audience. For the youth Mass, for instance, he has used both his musical talents and his willingness to be endearingly goofy. And despite the challenges of being apart, Kerns still finds a way to help out the community by coordinating outreach to the poor and delivering lunch bags to the homeless.

Once the crisis has ended, Kerns notes that some of these practices may remain. “We will probably make more permanent the livestreaming opportunity of our liturgies for the homebound,” Kerns says. “This pandemic will be a game changer for the way we do church.”

Fr. John Kerns’ YouTube Channel

Our Lady of the Lake Full Services