| 11.9°C Belfast


The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to modernise worship

Fr Martin Magill


Close

Dean Kenneth Hall and Jane McKinley held the first ever online Church service at St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen on Easter Sunday morning

Dean Kenneth Hall and Jane McKinley held the first ever online Church service at St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen on Easter Sunday morning

Dean Kenneth Hall and Jane McKinley held the first ever online Church service at St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen on Easter Sunday morning

Over the last few weeks, and again on Thursday past, there has been a gradual lessening of restrictions as we return to something we might call normal.

I want to reflect on this return as parishes and congregations adapt to a different way of worshipping.

There have been several voices - some of them very high-profile - calling for the restoration of public worship at the earliest opportunity.

As we move towards public worship again, there will be members of parishes and clergy very eager to get back to their local church and to enjoy the benefits which come from meeting together in one place.

I understand all that and yet I am left wondering how we utilise the learning and creativity that have come with the last few months.

I would suggest, before we spend all our time preparing for worship with social distancing and appropriate cleansing arrangements, that we decide on what we bring with us by way of learning as we move into a new chapter.

Many clergy, and indeed parishioners, have had to learn new skills in the digital world. They have discovered that, although the church building was closed, the Church continued in a new way.

As I was reflecting on what the Church has been learning, I was fortunate to come across a document called The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online. It was posted on the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland website and can be found at https://ctbi.org.uk/the-distanced-church-reflections-on-doing-church-online.

I have read a few of the articles, one of which was this: Turning Flavour of the Month into a Staple Diet, by a former Church of Scotland Moderator, the Very Rev Albert Bogle, who has been involved in online ministry for several years.

In the article, he recognised that, while many churches and parishes had invested in laptops, webcams, editing software and recording equipment, in order to make the most of this, they needed to identify members with the appropriate skills to use the technology.

He went so far as to argue that these months had meant, "There is a new opportunity to pioneer a radical approach to worship - one that will be more relevant to the present generations".

With regards to this idea of a radical approach to worship which he suggests, many of the larger denominations, including my own, need to think seriously about it because we have faced declining numbers coming to our physical buildings.

So, my question is: what do parishes and churches do with all the digital learning of the last few months? In my own experience, I am grateful to clergy from other denominations for what I have learned to assist my parish community.

It was thanks to a Moravian minister friend that I was able to use Zoom as a way to involve parishioners with Facebook Live. Another friend, a Presbyterian minister, helped in learning how to use iMovie. Imagine if clergy and parishioners could find ways to share such skills across the denominations.

I agree very strongly with the final point of Albert Bogle's article: this is an opportunity for Christians to grasp the missional initiative by creating informal collaborative networks of creatives across the globe to shape Church content, turning flavour of the month into a staple diet.

The current situation may well have created an appetite for creative, innovative and resourceful ministry. Such a collaborative missional initiative would be for the service of the Gospel and the People of God.

Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Scripture readings for the week ahead:

Monday: Mark 16:15

Tuesday: Joshua 1:9

Wednesday: Isaiah 43:19

Thursday: John 17:21

Friday: Genesis 12:1

Belfast Telegraph