We are a young group of 4 rural churches, brought together 3 years ago. Zoom has been a blessing, deepening our sense of being together, when lockdown had threatened to keep us apart. One member has just said that it is so lovely to see people’s faces, instead of the back of their heads.
Our ready-made launchpad was our email membership list that made it easy to share our Zoom Service links and we quickly realised the virtue of subscribing to remove the time limit. Our churchwarden, David, was already using Zoom for university tuition and pointed us in that direction. Our early efforts attempted to replicate our church services and immediately attracted bigger numbers of attendees than we experienced in our churches. From 25-30 we immediately had 45-50 people signing in. And we even encouraged our good friend Father Ted to take the plunge and Zoom his services from St Anne’s RC Church at Wappenbury!!
Since then, we have seen organic growth, capitalising on the talents we have among us. Daring to be experimental and flexible, we have 8-10 people contributing to each main service on Sunday morning. This includes offering an introduction to the theme of our worship; biblical readings; reflections on those readings; prayers; music and singing. The format varies from week to week from a service of the Word to a children-led service, an Agape, and in the evening a BCP Evensong. We have had a visiting preacher, the children demonstrating what the Trinity means to them, the Pilgrim Puppets sharing the Christian message in song and the Peace shared using British Sign Language.
What are we celebrating? Being in touch with more people every week than before; far greater participation (and new participants) in our worship; seeing our children visible and contributing to our worship life; being all together for worship; ease of access specially for the more elderly and those who are ill; a wider sense of fellowship; greater variety in our worship. And we are already committing ourselves to making this way of worship part of our future when we are able to return to our very special church buildings.
During this journey we have settled on our Parish Vision statement: One church fellowship, receiving and sharing God’s gifts in Christ across our five villages. Are we making that happen? Yes, but what excitement is around the next corner?
by the Revd Hugh Priestner