Technology and the church community in the midst of the pandemic Theology

Josh Harris is leading a new CTC project that harnesses the potential of the community organization for community development – and he’s also a curate in St. George-in-the-East. Here he asks some questions – and highlights some resources – for churches in the midst of the current crisis.

As Angus Ritchie wrote last week This crisis is changing quickly and is confusing. In less than a week, our churches made a proposal not to shake hands in peace until the first suspension of public service since 1208 and the closing of all churches in London.

Over the past week, my congregation, along with so many others, has tried to move much of our worship and community online and over the phone. A lot is learned – and a lot of mistakes have to be made, just like there are innovations to discover!

At the Center for Theology and Community, we work with churches to harness the power of community organization. This work will continue in the coming weeks. As we quickly learn how to move our community life online, two key questions arise:

1. Who could be overlooked by these changes and excluded?

As Angus wrote last week, Jesus places the poorest and most vulnerable at the heart of his church. The Church is not a “we” that serves the needy: the “we” must accept and recognize the gifts of those who are often marginalized (in the broader culture and too often in the church).

Technology can include people who are unable to be physically present in the church – and there are insights that the broader church can get from those who take initiatives such as A good job long before this crisis.

Technology can also rule out. How are we going to develop new ways of being church in the coming weeks that will continue to build a strong and deep relationship culture that includes those who may find it difficult to access a smartphone and a reliable 4G or broadband connection?

2. How can we prevent our imagination from being restricted by the technology we have achieved this week?

There is now a wealth of technology available to broadcast a Sunday service live, pray together in the office, or have a small group conversation. We try to get the relative merits of different platforms or formats under control all week, and it is important to experiment a lot and see what others use. However, it is important to continue exploring what options are available, rather than just resigning to the shape we found this week.

One of Hallmark of an organized church is that it “is constantly reorganized to renew its focus on people”. This is not just about our power structures and life patterns, but also about our online presence and resources that we use. We have to continue evaluating and reorganizing.

In addition, the pattern of our mission and service is determined by God and the people and the context in which we are called, not by the functions that Zoom offers. So when we deal with the technological tools that are available to us, we continue to organize, evaluate and recognize where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

… So what resources are available?

We will continue to update this post in the coming weeks as others with expertise write instructions on how to use this and other resources – and if it turns out what worked well and what didn’t!

Ian Paul has gathered around 300 Sunday responses that you can read Here. His considerations What all of this could mean to be a church is the first thing that will become a familiar topic in church blogs in the coming weeks.

As Ian emphasizes, there is a difference between broadcasting a service and creating opportunities to interact and build relationships.

A great place to start how to broadcast a service live this article. Many churches send the service on a combination of Facebook, YouTube and / or Instagram. A good example of live streaming on Facebook in East London (including instructions on how to use emojis in the comments to join in …) is St. John’s Hoxton. You can also Embed Facebook videos on your existing website if you don’t want to redirect people to too many URLs.

A number of churches are used Church’s online platformThis enables a combination of recorded clips and live interaction, also for prayer – and seems to offer some good functions for connecting with “visitors”.

St. Mary Walthamstow produced a fantastic (and beautiful!) Sunday service with short stories. This service was based on recorded material, liturgy to deal with, venerated songs with texts to join in, and an opportunity to submit prayer requests or ask for help.

St. George to the east compile a Low tech podcast for Sunday, which included recorded contributions from various members of the Church recorded on their cell phones and laptops, so that we can continue to hear from a wider range of voices than just team members. Audacity is useful for recording and editing audio. We are currently hosting it on Soundcloud. We’re setting up this week the ability to have a landline number When called, the podcast is played automatically so that all members of the Church can easily dial in without easy internet access.

Our neighboring community of St. Paul’s Shadwell Main stream live streaming from multiple locations, then the church split up into its home groups (“Connect”) to discuss, share, and pray over Skype. This seems to be a pattern that many churches have adopted and that offers people fantastic opportunities to stay connected as a community.

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