MA Candidate in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice
Never before has the statement that church is more than just a building been more relevant.
Many church buildings have been closed for congregational worship since mid-March with some now opening for private prayer. Now ‘doing’ church can look like anything from pyjamas and breakfast on the sofa with a livestream playing, quiet time on a Tuesday morning or listening to worship music on your daily walk.
Part of church is building community and relationships; face to face this has changed but there has never been more space for creativity and new ideas than there is today. Homegroups on video conferencing platforms and churches partnering with local community groups to deliver essential items to those in need. I’ve even seen churches ‘meeting up’ online after the online service for coffee and a chat!
The distance recently travelled in the use of technology within the church is particularly exciting as so many people regard church as being behind-the-times. Maybe some church buildings are behind a bit and do offer that musty church smell… but the talents and gifts of people often found within these buildings are being showcased during this strange time.
One thing that interests me is seeing social media posts of people enjoying their live or pre-recorded church services. I’ve never thought of taking a photo of the minister or praise band when in the church building yet seeing these photos throughout the week offers a sense of community and of hope.
Entering church buildings for the first time (or first time in a while) can be threatening for some, not knowing anyone or sometimes worse – seeing someone you know. Now, this threat is removed as people, if they want to, can watch at home. If you have access to the internet, radio or television you will be able to find some form of church service either live or pre-recorded.
And what’s to stop regular church goers from listening or watching a different church’s service? Maybe somewhere you’ve been wanting to visit or somewhere you’re interested in how they do church. Somehow, despite what Covid-19 has stopped us from doing, it has opened doors to experience the new.
With summer approaching we can think of the loss of many large Christian gatherings and festivals across the island of Ireland. But seeing how far the church has come digitally in the last few months I am comforted in knowing that there will be much online to take part in.
Of course, it would be nice to actually ‘go’ to church but this experience so far has reminded me that church is still relevant and has shown that the message of hope it aims to share is worth learning new skills for and being present on new platforms.