Saturday, 08 May 2021

Online worship has made church think

Online worship has made church think

DEAR Friends,

A strange time we are in at the moment with covid restrictions affecting every aspect of our lives.

My churches took the position to close for public worship during the latest lockown and we me last week, via Zoom, to talk through when we will restart worship to which people can attend physically.

However, what we have learnt over the past year about worship is really interesting (well, it is for me).

A year ago, on Mothering Sunday, our churches were closed for public worship and all our services went online immediately.

If you had asked me at the beginning of last year about online worship, I would have said that this would not be high on the agenda of our churches here in Henley.

However, if you now ask me that same question, I would answer completely differently.

Our experience of online worship has been at times frustrating (especially when the internet crashes) but on the whole uplifting.

Our congregations have continued to attend services and even some that they would not normally attend, such as morning prayer or Good Friday, but what has been a real revelation is that people watch the services when they choose to do so.

I know that statement sounds strange but the normal service is at a certain time on a certain day and will never be repeated, so each is unique.

What we have discovered is that not many watch our services as they are broadcast, at 10am on a Sunday, for example, but by the end of the following week the audience figure has risen considerably.

What this means for church service times in the future is a question that we will have to address but at the moment this fact has made me consider how we worship, what we receive from worship and how we might need to continue to broadcast our services, even after the pandemic is over, so that people can join in wherever and whenever they choose.

One of the other interesting facts is that as our services are all on YouTube we have no idea who sees them, where the people live, or how many people are sat in front of a screen watching.

I know that we have had people from America watching and that my wider family (mainly in Manchester) are choosing to watch our services rather than join in their own.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about online services which can then feed into the decisions that we have in this regard in the future.

We are currently living in a strange time and I pray that you have kept safe, sane and well during the past year.

I really, really, really look forward to seeing people face to face again as soon as we are safely able to do so.

May God bless you all.

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