By Camille Davis
Special to the AFRO

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented congregating in all settings and therefore, Macedonia Baptist Church (MBC) in Southeast, Washington, D.C., and church Pastor Garfield Burton, turned to the talents of a tech-savvy millennial member to keep the church connected and operational. Preacher’s kid, or “PK,” Ashley Burton, 32, uses her talents to ensure the church remains up-to-date during these unprecedented times.

Burton’s father has presided over MBC for the past 17 years, allowing her to support its operations in many ways, alongside her mother, First Lady Marilyn K. Burton. The millennial Burton prides herself in supporting the church family, especially it’s “Multimedia Ministry.”

After Ashley Burton (pictured) put privacy protections in place, a racist hacker interrupted Macedonia Baptist Church’s (MBC) Wednesday night Bible Study. (Courtesy Photo)

Since the start of the pandemic, Burton said she has “been running the church’s social media, and coordinating logistics for online platform use to help members stay as connected as possible.” 

“I’ve also been responsible for getting my father up to speed as far as social media and technology,” she said. “We had been streaming our Sunday services via Facebook Live before, but the pandemic obviously presented us with new challenges.”

Like much of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, Burton and MBC have turned to Zoom, a video and audio conferencing platform used to stream meetings, for Bible study and services.

On Wednesday, April 8, hackers joined MBC’s Zoom Bible Study and harassed members by typing and posting racial slurs.

Burton said she was confused how the hackers gained access and explained: “all the recommended safeguards were in place, including the purchase of a paid Zoom account for privacy.”

However, members were able to see the hate-filled messages and the racially motivated hack left her feeling discouraged. 

“Thankfully, I had other safeguards already in place so the Bible Study was not audibly interrupted and I was able to work quickly to remove the bad actors from the meeting,” Burton said.

“After the incident, I updated the settings so that people could only chat with me as the host; this way, if it happened again, only I would be able to see it.” Problem solved, however spirits were low.

“I took the incident pretty hard, as I was already having a rough evening and also the week of the one year anniversary of my older brother’s passing. These are unprecedented times and as much as I had been working to ensure that things run smoothly, we ran into a pretty big hiccup,” Burton said. “I’m thankful for my parents and the MBC members who were super supportive and encouraging. Even in this, it showed our sense of community – something I hold up with tons of pride.”

Despite the racism, the Burtons and MBC members said the hackers could not stop God’s work.

“ felt determined to keep going, while making the safety of our congregants and visitors even more a priority. From the messages we received from members last night, the sentiment seemed to be that we weren’t going to let this stop us. So, we adjust, but we keep moving,” Burton said.

“We will continue to use both Facebook Live and Zoom for worship services and Bible Studies and we are working diligently to ensure the safety our congregants and guests,” said MBC in a statement on their Facebook page.