March 10, 2021
Did you know we’ve been at this for a year now? I’ll be saying more about it on Sunday, but this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of our last in-person worship before we had to make our shift to online. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Faith United had been offering online, live-streamed worship for a few years before Covid. You could be forgiven if you didn’t realize that. First, most of us didn’t really need it because we could worship in-person. Second, well, to be honest, it wasn’t very good. I mean, it was ok, and it was something, but we didn’t really put a lot of energy into it because we were so focused on our usual in-person worship. We had a camera at the back of the church – to give the feeling of being in a chair in the sanctuary – and from time to time we’d zoom in on the preacher, or the choir, or the screens.
But then when Covid forced us ALL online we quickly realized that our online experience, such as it was, wasn’t nearly good enough. So we adapted. And over the months (year!) we’ve continued to adapt. Now (at the risk of sounding immodest), when you tune in on YouTube for Sunday worship with Faith United you get a pretty good online experience. We’ve rearranged the sanctuary and created a ‘set’ to broadcast from. Zeljka (our music facilitator) and I are both quite close to the camera. We have variety through video scripture and music ministry. We are not on the cutting edge of innovation, but we’ve created what I think is a very engaging and intimate connective space. Even though we’re not together, we still feel togetherness.
Here’s the thing. Happily, thankfully, finally, in a few months (maybe September or October?) we should be able to safely return to in-person gatherings. Awesome! Fantastic! But what of our online presence? What about the community of worshippers we have who don’t live close enough to Faith to drive in? Or those who were previously unable to participate in-person but who now can because the online experience is rich enough? What might worship look like when we return? If we put the camera at the back again we’ll lose all our online intimacy. If we put a camera right in front of me and I focus on that then those gathered in-person may feel disconnected even though they’re right there. Clearly, some sort of ‘hybrid’ worship design is needed. Indeed! But what? How?
So we’ve begun a conversation. I posted these questions in our Facebook group, and I’m hoping anyone who reads this Noticings will feel free to offer their wisdom, and insight, and experience into our discussion too. You could send me a note anytime!
Please give these questions some prayerful thought:
What are the aspects of online worship that you would like to see continued even though we’ll be back in-person? (eventually)
Should online worship be an ‘add-on’ extra, or equal with our in-person, or should in-person be the ‘add-on’ to our online church?
Would you consider worshipping from home as a regular thing or an exceptional thing (come fall)?
I haven’t worked this all out yet, but I’m thinking I’ll put together a diverse group of Faith United folks who can help me guide and frame this conversation. I think it may be one of the most important conversations a church can have at this time – and those who choose not to have it, or choose to just “go back to how it was” are going to face very hard times in the future. The reality is that lots of folks really like their online couch-church experience. Not to say online should be the only thing – but for some it’s their preferred thing. This will be our big question as we navigate 2021: How will we be church together in the season ‘after’ Covid?
I’m looking forward to your creativity and passion as we go!