We are exhorted in Hebrews 10:25 to:
“Not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Coronavirus situation has meant that all churches in the UK have been unable to physically meet to encourage one another since the Prime Minister declared lockdown on Monday 23 March. This is an almost unprecedented situation and the last time churches were unable to meet was between March 1208 and May 1213 when King John refused to accept Pope Innocent’s appointee, Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Innocent responded by placing England under an interdict, meaning that the clergy were prevented from celebrating the sacramentsi.
The growing use of the internet has meant it has been possible for a number of years to “virtually” attend live streamed church services of many of the world’s larger churches via YouTube and social media.
The recent Coronavirus crisis has meant that the UK churches have had to reconsider how they stay in touch and continue to communicate with each other and teach their congregations, when the opportunity to physically meet up has been removed for a season. The use of smart phones and tablets has meant that staying in touch “virtually” is much easier than ever before, and although it cannot replace physically meeting together, it does mean that church congregations are able to maintain contact.
Here are a few suggestions:
WhatsApp is a useful way of setting up ‘groups’ to send messages, pictures, video links and typed prayers, and to keep in touch with each other. You can use this platform for video phone calls with up to eight people at one time – www.whatsapp.com
Messenger is a good way of connecting with a smaller group of people and you can use this platform for video phone calls with up to 50 people at one time, which may be a useful resource for smaller discipleship groups and prayer meetings – www.messenger.com
Zoom is a video conference facility which allows larger groups (up to 100) to meet virtually at the same time and is a useful platform to use for house group type meetings, prayer meetings and church business meetings – https://zoom.us/
Many churches are recording a church service and then uploading this onto YouTube –https://www.youtube.com/?gl=GB&hl=en-GB
The Evangelical Alliance has a dedicated page by Mark Crosby which contains many useful hints and tips for staying connected during this season and beyond – https://www.eauk.org/news-and-views/top-tips-for-doing-church-digitally
Although this is a challenging season for many churches, it also presents an exciting step-change for churches to utilise the internet to reach members of the public, who might not ordinarily physically step inside a church building, with the Gospel; one example being Alpha, who have produced a digital format for churches to host Alpha completely online – https://www.alpha.org/alpha-online/.
Also, there is the opportunity to provide additional platforms for church congregations to meet, pray and encourage one another easily during this time, which for many may continue to be a useful resource once the current lockdown situation has ended.