Never has our diocesan vision of Church for a different world been so relevant than it is right now.
Throughout this pandemic and lockdown, we have said that our buildings may be closed but the church is still open for business.
As we venture cautiously out of lockdown and begin the slow process of safely returning to gather and worship in our church buildings, we will reach an unforeseen crossroads.
Many churches have seen significant growth during this period of doing church solely online, with more people engaging online each week than attend on an average Sunday. We now have a huge responsibility to ensure that both our existing and newly arrived worshippers are nurtured and served.
It will be absolutely vital to get the transition and balance right, going from purely church online to a return to our buildings.
What we know is no longer advisable is to ignore the online world all together - we have found that we can not only exist but thrive as a community online.
We must also be aware that, for many of our congregations, a return to long-treasured traditions and services is vital for their spiritual wellbeing.
So a balance must be struck.
In this video, people from across the diocese share their tips for getting the balance right!
Here are some examples of different approaches to balancing online and 'in-building' worship from across our Diocese.
The 'Hybrid' model - St Brides, Old Trafford
St Bride's offer one service on a Sunday morning, streamed live from church and planned to serve both the online and offline congregations.
Revd Peter Matthews has produced a new 'order of service' that gives both congregations due consideration:
10.15am: Prepare & Gather
[Online: Prepare ourselves in our households for the service on Youtube]
[On Site: Quietly take our seats and prepare ourselves for the service]
After communion, the congregation in the church building leave straight away so they can join for online music and after that a Zoom meeting for socialising happens.
Join St Bride's for a Sunday service
Pre-recorded services - Blackrod, Daisy Hill, Westhoughton and Wigates Team
The team, a mixture of lay and ordained people, set up a rota to produce a weekly homily when lockdown hit. This reduced workload and enabled a collaborative approach.
A weekly pre-recorded service is shared on their YouTube channel each week. Now that worship has resumed in their four church buildings, the team have decided to continue with their pre-recorded services so that those who want to continue worshipping from home are still provided for. Some people even attend a service in church and then watch the pre-recorded service when they get home! Revd Carol Pharaoh says that the online services have helped her dispersed congregations feel a better sense of team cohesion.
Join the Team for a pre-corded Sunday Service
Facebook Live - Evening prayer with the Farnworth, Kearsley and Stoneclough Team
Revd Kim Lafferty leads evening prayer on the Farnworth, Kearsley and Stoneclough Facebook page every Monday - Thursday night. The services regularly get over 100 views and over 50 comments, as Revd Kim and her online congregation interact and pray together. The usual audience is a mix of all three Team congregation members, Kim's family in Scotland, and some school families. There are also some funeral contacts who have joined, and one lady who watches in Malaysia (formerly from Kearsley).
Kim said: "They have become a real community and notice when someone is missing. I love when people arrive 'late' and apologise! I love doing it and it helped me to stay connected when we were in total lockdown, especially as a single person living alone."
Join the FKS team for evening prayer
Mixed media - the Turton Moorland Team
The Turton Moorland Team found the challenge of lockdown 'immediate' as self-described "not-techie" churches! Their parishes had Facebook pages and websites but without much traffic through them.
Alongside the “old” methods of the telephone and post (and hundreds of phone calls have been made by parishioners to keep in touch with others), they have developed their online presence so that it is now far wider than the gathered presence had been on a Sunday.
Their team offer has included e-news letters; daily visual prayers on Facebook and Twitter; a free text service to parishioners; The “Worship at Home” resources, including children’s resources have been posted out and also uploaded each week, including on the new Team website, which has also had Prayer resources and reflections on the Sunday readings. Prayer resources were posted to those not able to download or see them online.
Team Administrator Chris Sutcliffe says: "Despite not being able to meet, the shared online work has given us a stronger sense of what we can do together as a Team and that we are 'one', while respecting the separate communities of the different parishes."