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What if?

Today the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to tell the House of Commons that, “There is no alternative to a second lockdown.”

It is likely that from Thursday 5th November the nation will be in a one month “circuit breaker” lockdown that will close all but essential services like schools. This means that careful socially distanced meetings for churches will be suspended during that period — unless some enlightened MP tables an amendment to ask for church services to be deemed an essential service.

How well prepared do you feel for another round of tighter restrictions?

Things have changed so much this year in the way we work, meet and relate to others. People have had to adapt to a new situation, learn new skills and adopt a more flexible attitude to changing times.

Last week the i paper celebrated its tenth anniversary. This newcomer in the world of print journalism has managed to attract a readership of nearly 9 million people. In the tenth anniversary edition the original editor, Simon Kelner wrote that when the paper was born:

“…we didn’t know what a selfie was. Instagram was only three weeks old and Twitter was not the omnipotent force it is today. We were still learning to share, how to be interactive, how to make our voice heard” (Monday 27th October 2020).

Print journalism, faced with stiff competition from digital alternatives, had to learn how to adapt by developing fresh ways to spread the news. The result was a compact paper rooted in rigorous journalism and a willingness to develop a parallel online presence. The i paper has successfully combined the old and the new. It has managed to pour old wine into new wineskins.

Thinking about the paper’s tenth anniversary got me thinking.

What would have happened to the church if Covid-19 had hit us in 2010?

ZOOM, the chosen medium of discourse for many churches and businesses during lockdown is only 9 years old. It was born on 21st April 2011. There would have been no Zoom meetings in 2010.

Has ZOOM saved the church during the pandemic or trapped it?

For some people ZOOM has provided a communication lifeline, but one of the lessons of earlier in the year is that it can be overused. There are issues of ZOOM fatigue by those who have become ZOOMED out!

No one will say on their deathbed, “I wish I could have one last ZOOM meeting.”

I still find it odd and distracting to see my own face in a ZOOM meeting. It can be stressful feeling on show. I have noticed that more people are choosing to switch off their video when in a meeting.

Sometimes you can hear the relief in someone’s voice when a telephone conversation is suggested. Now is a time to adapt again to a change in our meeting patterns. The important thing is to learn from past experience.

What things have worked well, what could be improved, and what has been overdone?

Four things would improve the online church experience for me.

  1. Having more than static talking heads.

  2. Using an imaginative mix of visual content.

  3. Developing a creative approach to meaningful prayer.

  4. Keeping to time. For an online service to work it generally ought to be under the hour mark.

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