Has the virtual church come to stay?
Perhaps in the interim, we may still continue to see traces of such modes of worship even with the easing of the lockdown directives.
With the COVID-19 lockdown restriction – online streaming of church services emerged as a common phenomenon, attendance was registered through online platforms, praises were echoed from remote stations, homilies were given from non-stationary positions without fixation to a pulpit, program timing and participation were adjusted to suit peculiar needs and convenience but despite the distance among the congregation, technology brought them together. One-on-one congregational responses, feedback or public testimony declaration were unfortunately dampened.
Moreso, unlike the erstwhile flexible coordination of service activities during pre-covid era, now with online streaming there is monotonous conduct of worship in a bid to make the most of the available airtime.
It may seem obvious that membership strength was uncertain during the lockdown, as not all churchgoers were tech-savvy or could afford data costs and couldn’t participate; and those could have challenges such as inadequate data supply and mental exhaustion from prolonged online viewing. Also, excessive formalities and constraints came into play in terms of pastoral consultations as clergymen were sometimes not as accessible as compared to the pre-covid-19 era where conversations between clergy and their members could ensue almost spontaneously.
Consequently, it is pertinent to note that activities such as house visitations, community evangelism, fundraising activities, retreats, crusades, bazaars are now greatly impeded as members’ mobilisation is now faced with some difficulties due to the current pandemic.
In this new reality, churches are left to contemplate on ways to manage these different times. One among many possibilities is the recurrent effort to inspire family-led gatherings that would form little neighbourhood churches that maintain correspondence to the central administration. Instead of 5000-seater cathedrals and auditoriums, 25-seater upper rooms are the new normal.
With so much said and described above, are there really lessons for churches and mosques going forward? Or lessons learnt from the lockdown services that can shape our mode of worship now that the lockdown has been eased?.
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