Racists Hack Local Bible Study

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By Camille Davis
Special at AFRO

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented gatherings in all settings and, therefore, Macedonian Baptist Church (MBC) in the Southeast, Washington, D.C., and church pastor Garfield Burton, turned to the talents of a tech-savvy millennial to keep the church connected and up and running. The preacher’s child, or “PK”, Ashley Burton, 32, is using her talents to ensure the church stays up to date during these unprecedented times.

Burton’s father has chaired MBC for the past 17 years, enabling him to support its operations in many ways, alongside his mother, First Lady Marilyn K. Burton. Millennial Burton is proud to support the church family, especially its “multi-media ministry.”

After Ashley Burton (pictured) put privacy protections in place, a racist hacker interrupted the Macedonian Baptist Church (MBC) Wednesday evening Bible study. (Courtesy picture)

Since the start of the pandemic, Burton said she “manages the church’s social media and coordinates logistics for using the online platform to help members stay as connected as possible.”

“I was also tasked with bringing my dad up to speed on social media and technology,” she said. “We’ve broadcast our Sunday services via Facebook Live before, but the pandemic has 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 conferencing and audio conferencing platform used to broadcast 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 at how the hackers gained access and explained, “all recommended safeguards were in place, including purchasing a paid-for-privacy Zoom account.”

However, members were able to see the hateful posts and the racially motivated hacking discouraged her.

“Fortunately, I had other safeguards in place already that the Bible study would not be audibly interrupted and was able to work quickly to weed out bad actors from the meeting,” Burton said.

“After the incident, I updated the settings so that people can only chat with me as the host, so if it happens again, I’ll be the only one who can see it. Issue resolved, but spirits were low.

“I took the incident quite hard as I already had a difficult evening and also the week of the first anniversary of the death of my older brother. These are unprecedented times and although I had worked to make things are going well, we hit a pretty big setback,” Burton said. “I’m grateful to my parents and MBC members who have been so supportive and encouraging to me. Even so, it showed our sense of community. – something I support with great pride.

Despite the racism, the Burtons and MBC members said hackers couldn’t stop God‘s work.

“I felt determined to continue, while making the safety of our worshipers and visitors even more of a priority. From the messages we received from members last night, the feeling seemed like we weren’t going to let that stop us. So we’re adapting, but we’re still moving forward,” Burton said.

“We will continue to use Facebook Live and Zoom for worship services and Bible studies and are working diligently to ensure the safety of our worshipers and guests,” MBC said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.

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