This has been an unusual time in the life of our congregation. For the last seven weeks, we have been gathering 100% online.
On Sunday mornings, we worship together on Facebook live. For Holy Week, we had some special services on Zoom. Every week, two Bible studies gather on zoom to spend time together and dig deeper into Scripture. In addition, each week some of us go back and listen to the sermons on our podcasting app.
I want to share with you a glimpse into what our online congregation has looked like during these seven weeks.
On Sunday mornings, I broadcast our worship and devotions from my dining room table. At 10:00 am, we pray together, learn from Scripture, and experience time together.
During the live broadcast every week, an average of 58 devices stream the service on either the Spirit of Joy! Facebook page or on my Pastor David Hansen page. On average, there are two people watching each device that streams — meaning that there are just over 100 people worshiping with us during Sunday morning.
In addition, another 40 devices watch the service later – either later on the day on Sunday, or in the week following.
Facebook gives you all sorts of data about who watches your videos.
As you might expect 75% of the people participating in worship were watching in Texas. But the other 25% are from all over.
We had regular worship participants from Florida, Canada, Mexico, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas, and much more. In total, we had worship participants in more than 20 US states and 4 countries!
We have used the videoconferencing platform Zoom for a couple of different activities. The advantage of Zoom is that it allows all of the participants to see one another and interact in ways that are not possible via Facebook livestream.
Every week, our Men’s Bible Study and Women’s Bible Study have met via Zoom. There have been 15-20 people at these Bible studies each week.
During Holy Week, Zoom was the platform for all of our special services – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunrise. We had a combined worship attendance of 86 at Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – our largest attendance at those two services on record. All of these services had visitors joining us.
Every Sunday morning before worship, we have continued to do what we also do – have a coffee hour! About ten of us gather every Sunday morning just to catch up and share about life while we wake up and get ready for worship.
At the beginning of 2020 – before any of this began – we started consistently recording the audio of Pastor David’s sermons and uploading them to this website and podcasting apps.
As more people began to participate in our worship online, fewer people have downloaded the sermon each week.
During the quarantine, an average of 30 people have downloaded the sermon each week – and these downloads happen all over the world: Panama, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Hungary. Within the US, our sermons are being listened to in Texas, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Washington state and DC, Illinois, Maryland, and more.
During this time, digital tools have been essential in helping us to remain spiritually connected while we have been physically distanced from one another.
On May 17, we are beginning the process of resuming in-person worship at our church building – but we fully intend on continuing to use these tools and what we have learned during this time to expand our community beyond the walls of our building.
As we resume in-person worship, there will be people who are not ready to participate in that sort of physical gathering, or for health reasons till can not expose themselves to being around others. These people are valued in our community – you are valued whether or not you can make it to in-person worship on Sunday mornings.
What these ways of being connected online will look like in the future remains to be seen. For now, we are planning on continuing to livestream at least a portion of Sunday worship, hosting online Bible studies, and recording and uploading the sermon audio to our podcast app.
The use of these tools may expand in the future – they may grow and transform. Perhaps we will decide to invest in new cameras, or microphones, or other tools that allow us to improve our ability to broadcast our gatherings.
But whatever it looks like, our tools for digital connection are here to stay – they have become a part of who we are.
I’ll see you online!
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