Christian Chronicle

‘Zoombombing’ lesson: Racist attack on church highlights online security concerns

A North Carolina congregation wanted to be seeker friendly during COVID-19, but then came internet trolls hurling slurs.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Even as her home congregation worships virtually, Nikki Murphy still likes to dress up for the Sunday service.

On a typical Lord’s Day during the COVID-19 pandemic, her sister Jamie Gadson comes over. The two put on makeup before connecting the church’s Zoom feed to Murphy’s living-room TV.

“I’ve been trying to stay in the habit of getting ready for church,” the 46-year-old nurse said. “Everybody has started showing up for church in their pajamas and not turning on the camera.”

This past Sunday, her preacher — Nick Glenn of the Sharpe Road Church of Christ in Greensboro, N.C. — titled his sermon “Everything Is Going to be Alright.” 

The lesson, taken from Psalm 37:22-25, was meant to serve as an encouragement for the 350-member congregation.

“Be positive during these difficult times” was the message that Glenn, a 42-year-old former college basketball player, said he wanted to share with the predominantly Black flock.

Related: Black church’s online service attacked with racist hate speech

As Murphy listens to Glenn’s prerecorded sermon each week, she keeps the live discussion window open on her TV screen.

“We do a lot of our ‘Amen-ing’ in the chat boxes,” she said. “If Nick makes a good point, I’ll say, ‘Preach, preacher,’ or cheer him on a little bit. … Sometimes I might say, ‘Hallelujah,’ and put a lot of exclamation marks behind it.”

Wanting to be seeker friendly, the church has shared its Zoom connection information widely on social media during the more than six months members have met online.

That openness had never been a problem.

Until now.

In the middle of this week’s sermon, a rapid-fire barrage of messages popped up. When Murphy looked closer, what she saw shocked her.

The statements were littered with racial slurs and hate speech. One comment taunted, “GET OFF CHURCH AND GO PICK YOUR COTTON.” Another proclaimed, “WHITE LIVES MATTER.” 

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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