A couple of months ago if you had mentioned the word 'zoom' in church, the picture coming to mind would be of singing a children's song and pretending to be aeroplanes ('let's zoom around the room and praise the Lord!'). How things have changed in such a short space of time.
Zoom is now a common word in church circles. We have Zoom celebrations, Zoom cell groups, Zoom bible studies, Zoom leaders meetings and Zoom coffee meetings, to name but a few! It has certainly been a very steep learning curve for some, but once the initial shock died down, it was a challenge that we have risen to with great adaptivity.
One advantage that we have already discovered, is that people can join in who would otherwise struggle to come to a physical meeting. Some people have young children at home, making it hard to come out in the evenings. Others have been ill, but are still able to join in from their beds! Some people live further away, and we have even had a friend joining us from South Africa. It was strange to think that in one celebration we had people who live across the road from each other joining online with others who live the other side of the world. Technology makes distance inconsequential.
Another positive outcome is that we have all had to face our fears of using online forums, so as well as Zoom, we have used Whatsapp groups and video calls to create a sense of community, and to encourage each other. We have explored various potential options for streaming meetings online. We have watched what other churches are doing, partly to keep in touch and also to learn from them!
We have quickly had to learnt how to record and edit worship for sharing within our celebrations, and to record talks and teaching for our midweek groups. This has led to the advantage that those who were not available at the time of the meeting could catch up at their leisure. There is much to think about regarding how we can continue to use some of these new tools in the future, even after we can meet together physically again.
One does wonder occasionally on Zoom, whether people are more interested in viewing their latest haircuts (or lack of) and catching up with each other than they are interested in the subject of the meeting. I suspect they are, and that of course is exactly how it should be. People matter more than things. Social distancing and being under lockdown have certainly not hindered our sense of family. On the contrary, it has clarified what is really important, and if anything, the desire to keep in touch with each other has increased.
People matter more than things
Of course some do struggle to connect via technology, and it has been a challenge to help those people still feel part of the family through other ways. We do dearly miss being able to physically meet together. We have coined an expression called 'Holly-hugs', after the lovely lady of that same name. This is the gold standard of hugs at Pathways church, and is generally agreed to be what our people miss most about being together! Once we are able to meet again physically, I suspect that we will do a lot more eating meals together and just generally enjoying each other's company.
All are welcome to join with us at any of our celebrations and cell group meetings. Even if you just want to join in the background and watch quietly, that’s fine. If you would like us to send you the link, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jenny Needham