Monday, 19 Oct 2020

Church of England welcomes millennials to online services as it prepares to reopen pews

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Over the past few months, many have been communicating with worshippers by holding online sermons. These have “revolutionised” the way the church reaches people and should be continued, the Bishop of Southwark has suggested. The Rt Rev Christopher Chessun has been leading virtual services at least once a week and believes lockdown has given the church a new voice that can reach people who otherwise may not attend, and that online worship should continue once the doors are open again.

He said more people have sought out online sermons amid the crisis in order to find “a way of understanding what has been happening” and “help us remember we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

“One of the main challenges has been how to meaningfully stay in contact with our congregations and those in need, and be attentive to the people of the community.That has seen us develop new skills.

“Online worship can provide a meaningful way for people to worship together and feel part of the church family. This has also attracted people who would not in any other circumstances have walked through the church doors.

“A good number of millennials have been tuning in, so something valuable has happened which we wouldn’t want to lose when we go back to our traditional mode of worship.

“So many people who have watched services have begun to feel a sense of belonging.That is significant.”

The Church of England has been producing a 35-45 minute weekly service for Facebook and YouTube, attracting 5.2 million views.

Rev Mr Chessun believes the virus has sped up change within the church.

He said: “We proclaim the gospel afresh to each generation and I think we will be communicating with our communities in fresh, creative ways too.”

Some details of how churches will operate after July 4 are still unclear.

So far, it is known that there will be increased cleaning, alternatives to collection plates and much smaller congregations due to social-distancing rules.

It is also unlikely that there will be a traditional sharing of the peace, as it involves shaking hands.

Singing will be banned, so there could be a Sunday church service, but held without the hymns.

Some churches will not be ready to hold public services by July 4 and will continue to only host private prayers.

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