What does it mean to be the church in this new digital world? This is a question many are asking. I recently attended a webinar entitled “Welcoming and Belonging in the Digital Sphere.” This is a two-part webinar hosted by the Diocese of Washington and facilitated by Jerusalem Greer, a staff officer for Evangelism in the Presiding Bishop’s Office of the Episcopal Church.
In the beginning.
When we were forced to have only online services due to Covid St. Philip’s was ready! We were already aware of the benefits of live streaming as we had been doing so for some time. Now we are able in have in-person services again, with safety modifications of course. But, for various reasons, many are still choosing to worship with us online. With that realization my question is: How do we move forward and what can we learn from this unexpected wilderness time we are experiencing in not doing church “like we’ve always done it?”
It was an insightful webinar and I can’t wait to see what Part 2 brings next week. But I wanted to share some of my thoughts from Part 1 of the webinar.
How will we move forward?
I don’t think many of the churches will go back to strictly in-person church after the pandemic is over. There was a tremendous amount of time and energy spent figuring out how to live stream and acquiring the necessary equipment to offer church to those outside the walls of the church. And, many are seeing their congregations growing in ways they didn’t expect.
With online churches everywhere – you are able to attend church anywhere in the world. We have many regular visitors who are not geographically able to be here in person, but they are faithful online members who show up every Sunday to worship with us.
Online visits can be anonymous. For those who are local who want to learn more about St. Philip’s watching our online service is much less intimidating than walking through the actual doors. For many attending an online service is a way of researching a church, much like visiting a website, or even earlier, looking up a church in the phone book! Think about it – many in our congregation have never heard of the yellow pages! Things change.
What about the connections?
But what is missing are the connections. What I am learning is that the connections can still happen, even online connections. But it takes a shift in the ways we do things. If we are going to be the church for this changing world, then we need to look at the changes that are happening and be proactive about how we care for the lonely, and those looking for belonging and transformation. We are created for each other and our work is to share the love of Jesus both inside our walls and outside via the the internet!
So stay tuned, I will have more to say on this next week after Part 2 of the webinar. That’s when they are going to get into the nuts and bolts of how to do this. But I do know one thing – it can’t be done without your help. Our walls for evangelism just got much, much larger. Isn’t it great that you can now share your love of St. Philip’s with others, no matter where they live! — Cyndy Marsh