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Worship Goes Online

Tuesday March 24 2020

Churches throughout Scotland took to the internet at the weekend.

With most churches shut due to the coronavirus epidemic, and worship services cancelled, ministers used their own websites, Facebook Live, YouTube and other platforms to livestream services to their members and the wider community.

While a growing number of churches already livestream or record their services, for others it was a first time, and many ministers and worship leaders have had a steep learning curve as they got to grips with the technology.

The Rev Joanne Hood of St John’s Church in Hamilton used the videoconferencing service Zoom to lead her service, and said it had been ‘an uplifting tonic for body, mind and soul – just what we need’.

Mrs Hood said: “It was great fun and everyone really appreciated the opportunity to see and hear each other, particularly those already having to self-isolate.

“We had all ages, and some of our younger adult members who live and work further away now joined us, which everyone appreciated.

“It was my first attempt using Zoom, after only downloading the app on Wednesday, and already I know more than I did on Sunday, but we'll get there.

“There were some comedy moments of folk not realising their conversations were also been seen and heard by a wider audience but it all added to the joy if the thing and I got a lot of messages and emails afterwards saying how welcome all these elements of the time together truly were.

“We had 73 devices connected for our first go which I thought was amazing! There were three screens of people waving and smiling to each other.

“I’m hoping to be able to offer a bit more next week, as I now have a license for longer time and up to 500 participants, and I’m making plans for others to participate in various ways.

“Some people have already signed in with the meeting ID to wait for next week's worship so it can't have been that bad an alternative.

“Some might even say it's potentially (given a bit of time to master the medium) better than what we're able to offer from our buildings... but I couldn't possibly comment!”

St Ninian’s Church in Dunfermline used Facebook Live, an experience which the minister, the Rev Carolann Erskine, described as ‘both a challenge and a blessing’. She said: “Our church does not have, nor can we afford, the technology that we need for recording services; and in any case, technology is not my strong point.

“However, God is good. After a time of prayer, I decided to rise to the challenge of these difficult times and be courageous. Within a week I had learned all that I needed to know about laptops, projectors, sound system, power point, clickers, spotify and glory be!  another church very kindly lent us a digital hymnal so I was able to learn how to programme it with the choice of hymns.

“This first attempt was not perfect but, like a baby bird learning how to fly, improvements can always be made.

“It was an unusual encounter as there is great value of being a gathered community.  I felt strange, but not alone, like a sense that people were praying for me. Having gathered the kindling, the spark was there to nourish the flame that will not be put out. Feedback has been overwhelming. I'm humbled at such encouragement and for such kindness which in itself is a mode of blessing. I felt that God took my simple awkward offering and blessed it. Our page reached 372 people. Glory to God.”

A list of churches which livestream their services is available on the Church of Scotland website, or visit your local church’s website or Facebook page to see if they are offering anything locally.

Nationally, the Weekly Worship team based in the Faith Nurture department of the Church will be providing a short act of worship online, led by a range of people from across the Church. Sunday’s service reflected on Psalm 23 in prayer, preaching and song, led by the national worship team along with the Rev Dr Doug Gay and Jo Love of the Wild Goose Resource Group. The video is available on YouTube and the transcript on Resourcing Mission.

On TV, the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood took part in ‘Reflections at the Quay’, which was broadcast on BBC1, using hymns from Songs of Praise episodes recorded in various Scottish churches. The programme is available to download for SKY customers.

The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, and his wife Ruth are broadcasting daily reflections through the Moderator’s Facebook page.

The online pioneer ministry Sanctuary First is also offering daily worship and a ‘virtual coffee shop’.


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