Mid-Michigan church opens its doors as internet hotspot for virtual-learning students

Destiny Viator

FLUSHING, MI – A Flushing church has opened its doors for students virtually learning in the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Flushing United Methodist Church, 413 E. Main St., is providing free internet access for more than 30 students from 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday with social distancing inside […]

FLUSHING, MI – A Flushing church has opened its doors for students virtually learning in the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flushing United Methodist Church, 413 E. Main St., is providing free internet access for more than 30 students from 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday with social distancing inside the building’s fellowship hall.

Flushing Community Schools has committed to virtual learning until at least Oct. 5.

Flushing schools delay start, opt for virtual learning-only in first month

In a letter to the board, Superintendent Matt Shanafelt said the change to the start-of-school plan would help assure the highest degree of staff, student and community safety.

Pastor JJ Mannschreck said the idea to allow students in came from a church member.

“We have a mom in our congregation who is an educator herself. She is digitally teaching,” he noted.

The church member saw a Facebook post from another house of worship in the country and approached Mannschreck about the idea.

He consulted with his brother, who helps set up wifi networks.

“What’s going to happen if we have 30 middle-schoolers show up with laptops?” Mannschreck asked his brother about the possibility. His brother told him, “That’s not going to work.”

Installing a couple new access points, the idea was launched to begin on the new school year.

The new school year, however, wasn’t the beginning of the transition for the church into a new realm of the digital age.

Mannschreck said the church began to live stream services more than a year ago, beginning on Facebook and cutting down the video to just the service and onto YouTube the following day.

With his wife more than eight months pregnant when the pandemic began, the church moved to airing prerecorded services amid the COVID-19 shutdown and has upgraded its video equipment and internet.

“We have to find a whole new way to do ministry,” said Mannschreck, not just amid the pandemic but to reach out to others beyond the confines of the church walls. “We can do meetings virtually. We’ve got Bible studies with people joining us all over the world.”

He noted the church will provide the free internet to students as long as the school district remains under virtual learning.

“I assume if they’re still closed, we’ll still be here for them,” Mannschreck said.

While the need has not been great in the first few days, Mannschreck said another reason for offering the option is those who live in rural parts of the area who may struggle with internet connectivity.

Students under 18 years old heading to the church must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and wear a mask. Masks are available for those who do not have them as well as extension cables.

Mannschreck has spoken with the school district about the potential of providing some food for students.

Anyone with questions may contact Flushing United Methodist Church at 810-659-5172.

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