This weekend many churches will celebrate Easter online by livestreaming their worship, including their music, sermon, and even communion. For some congregations, this may be nothing new; livestreaming has already been a regular part of their ministry to connect with people beyond their church’s physical location. For others, worship online means acquiring and learning new technology due to the physical distancing requirements to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
In the rush to get online quickly, C. Christopher Smith urges churches to proceed with care: “Churches Should Think Twice Before Webcasting Their Worship Services.” In his article he raises a number of key questions:
- What is a worship service?
- What really matters in a worship service?
- How do different technological platforms differ in the engagement they allow?
- How does a particular medium or tool shape us, as passive observers or active participants?
I would also add:
- Who has access to the technology being considered, and how can we include everyone?
Not everyone has access to Facebook Live or wants to have a Facebook account at all. Not everyone is familiar with Zoom or eager to learn it, especially given concerns over privacy. For rural churches, the lack of internet connection may be a challenge.
In my liturgical worship community, instead of holding an online worship service, the liturgy and homily are emailed to everyone with an email address in our directory, and the same worship materials are printed out and delivered to those who do not. In this way everyone is included by receiving the same material for worship.
Some may pray through it quietly on their own, others may have a worship service together over the phone, or with FaceTime, Zoom, or other means. Another suggestion is to text or email a few people during or after the service to pass the peace as we do when we worship together: “The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Since I’m speaking this Easter Sunday, I also decided to make an audio of my message as another option. The file is rather large to email, so I’m posting it below, and please feel free to share the link to this post with anyone who might be interested.
However you spend this weekend, let me pass on this blessing that I received in an Easter card: “May God fill your heart with joy and love, and may you be assured that God is always near.”
Easter for Everyone (homily on Acts 10:34-43)
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!!
Writing/Reflection Prompt: If you have been worshipping online, how has it been meaningful to you? What cautions would you offer? If you have not been worshipping online, what has held you back, and why might you consider it?
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