In a first for the Shaftesbury area CofE churches, Sunday’s service will be streamed online with no members of the congregation present. Alfred’s Keri Jones found out more.
At 10am on Sunday, Reverend Dr Helen Dawes and Reverend Pam Rink will broadcast their first live service from St Peter’s Church Hall. On Thursday morning Helen held a technical run through, checking the camera angle and quality of sound. She’s knows how important this will be for her congregation. Helen explained that one parishioner had said that she had not missed a service for over seventy years.
Recent events have temporarily changed the way we live, but life must go on. “What we’re trying to do, Pam and I, as clergy from the Shaftesbury Team is find ways to keep people together. Knowing that they are still part of the church, even if they can’t be in our churches as they normally would. Neither of us is experienced in hosting a church service online and we’re going to be learning as we go. We want to do what we can to try and keep people together,” said Helen. She hopes that people ‘will be kind’, adding that neither she nor Pam are media trained. “We are just two country vicars,” Helen smiled.
Father’s House church has previously ventured into the world of podcasting and they will also be live streaming their service this Sunday. Helen says that churches across the country will be utilising technology to create some sense of normality. “The Church of England has been putting out national guidance as fast as it can. There’s been a blog post on how to live stream services. Church lawyers have been helping us make sure we don’t get caught up with copyright. I’m sure there will be moments on Sunday when people cannot hear us when we turn away or mumble or get confused. The connection might drop. Church is church. It’s not a performance. It is worship and this is what we’re going to try and do on Sunday,” Helen said.
You will be able to watch the service on-demand after it has finished because Facebook will archive the video broadcast online. Helen is particularly keen to stream the act of worship live so people see it as it’s happening. “If we can’t get this to work, we might need to move to recorded services in the future. But church is about being together as we worship in God’s presence,” said Helen. “We want to try and worship together. We won’t be able to see who was worshipping with us but when people are watching on Facebook, they will see us take the service, preach the sermon and pray the prayers is as it is happening. I’ve already had a couple of messages from members of our churches promising they will be with us. It’s nice to know that we will have that company in the presence of God, even if not here in St Peter’s Church Hall.”
Helen expects that it will feel unusual because she is used to the interaction from congregation in the same room. “It’ll be strange not to see people’s responses and I’ll have even less sense of whether people think my jokes in the sermon are funnier than I normally do,” she laughed.
The service starts at 10am on the Shaftesbury Church of England Facebook page, which you can find here.
There will be no services at the Bell Street church in Shaftesbury or any Methodist or United Reformed Church until government advice changes. Father John Rice says that Shaftesbury’s Catholic Church of the Most Holy Name and St Edward King and Martyr will not hold public services but it will be possible to watch mass streamed online from elsewhere.