Zoom Church: discoveries and tips

Reflections

I am getting more positive feedback about church now than in all of my 20 years of ministry put together. People love the fact that they can say the familiar words, see their friends and sing their hearts out. It’s a bit of normality in the midst of the strange new world we now inhabit,” says The Rev’d Dr Cathy Laufer

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On Holy Saturday, that most reflective of days, I was pondering the situation in our parish in Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Holy Spirit Anglican Church in Coolum has no access to the internet. We don’t even have a phone line to the property. So, we decided to hold Zoom Church from the rectory – and it is wonderful!

In our Zoom services, we have a mix of the familiar and the new. I have set up my study in the rectory with our processional cross and I robe. We use Ante-Communion (i.e. Holy Communion, second order, ending the Prayers with the Lord’s Prayer, blessing, dismissal) so the words people say are familiar. Others read and lead prayers as normal. Music includes well known hymns sung by choirs on YouTube. Prior to the Zoom gathering, I email an order of service with readings, prayers, hymn words, and other relevant text.

Much to my amazement, the result is joyous, positive and encouraging.

Here are my discoveries:

Some of the comments I received after Palm Sunday’s service:

I was just amazed. I was sitting outside with butterflies and dragonflies all around. It was like a service in a glade with the sun shining in on me. So fortunate. 

For a first timer, me, it was quite a learning experience, but I figure I have it all sorted out… it was a delight to see familiar faces once again [from a man of 86].

It was such a joy to see everyone’s faces this morning. I wanted to talk to each & every one of you. It makes me realise, yet again, how much our church family is a reality.   

I appreciated church this morning. It reinforces the fact that church is us!

What a privilege to join our church community this morning. Different and yet very heart warming. We are so fortunate to have this chance to connect. Thank you for being so positive, motivating and fun! We must all keep laughing and embracing change.

In short, Zoom Church has given us a way to love one another that we could never have imagined. It is a gift. We at Holy Spirit, Coolum Beach are learning to give thanks, even in the midst of COVID-19’s challenges. I have learnt a whole new way of being a priest which is exciting and life giving for both me and my people.

God truly draws straight with crooked lines or, in the words of St Paul, “All things co-mingle together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes (Romans 8.28).”*

Top Tips for hosting Zoom Church

  1. Mix the familiar (e.g. robes and hymns) with the new (i.e. digital tech).
  2. Email an order of service prior to Zoom Church, which includes readings and hymn words.
  3. Ensure community members are supported with tech help, if required, before their first Zoom Church.
  4. Ensure only one microphone is turned on (to avoid accidental audible interruptions, such as from late comers).
  5. Encourage new people to volunteer for the reading roster.
  6. Use breakout rooms for ‘fellowship’ time after the service so people can chat with their friends.
  7. Ask parishioners to provide feedback and follow up the feedback.

* The phrase ‘God draws straight with crooked lines’ comes from the novels of Andrew Greeley. The translation of Romans 8.28 is based on that by Susan Howatch in her novel Absolute Truths (HarperCollins, 1995).

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