REPORT: UCRMN Zoom Check in – November 24, 2021

Nine UCRMN members joined together on Zoom to check in with each other with their latest experiences in Rural Ministry; one from Alberta, one from Saskatchewan, six from Ontario (five from East Central Ontario Regional Council – Ottawa area), and one from Prince Edward Island.

Worship Services:

Starting Questions:

–   Hybrid Church – How do you do both?

  • Do you have a Tech Team?
  • How have you found congregant’s comfort levels to returning to church?

Comments:

  • You can’t do it all at once – Baby steps.
  • Experience is that there is about 50% attending and 50% not comfortable with in-person, so they view online. Most if not all attending, are fully vaccinated.
  • No one reported that they are checking for vaccinations.
  • Alberta Government offered grants to Churches as they returned to Services.
  • There is a “Big” Learning of how to share Zoom with congregation and sharing liturgy to the Zoom Participants – what do you need to share, and what becomes disruptive?
  • Started with computer, then phone, added a camera – (one step at a time)
  • Several Churches opened, then closed and now are re-opened (uncertainty).
  • Church records the in-person morning worship, goes home and renders the video and uploads it for availability on Monday morning (Slow internet). People viewing online only see the pulpit – Bulletins with songs and liturgy are emailed separately.
  • Church offers Live Zoom worship only – you needed to be present on Zoom to see the worship – not recorded (keep the community together).
  • Several ministers do everything – lots of extra work (15 hours per week) – claim they do not have the tech help or expertise in their congregations.
  • A help with online, is that many churches pre-COVID, were already projecting – not such a stretch to the technology.
  • Church uses an iPad on a step ladder – seems to work well. Another uses an iPad on a stand to record several days before the service time for online viewers.
  • Prerecord and uses the same service for live – using PowerPoint or Keynote to share liturgy – able to use similar resources.
  • When COVID started, online numbers looked good – today’s reality is that in-person worship plus online views no longer total those highs.
  • Numbers returning to church is staying consistent.
  • Church emailed only written services (older congregation) for 18 months – now open – still send emails to those not attending.
  • Church does Zoom, Online (YouTube link from website, including printed resource), and print and deliver about 30 copies each week – just starting with in-person – trial and error.
  • Many Churches are not opening Christmas Eve – will do online.
  • Is online worship a “Gong Show”? Where is God? Do we feel God’s presence?

Resources re: Hybrid Worship:

Future and Past Technologies:

  • Many of us personally do not feel the spiritual connection with a two dimensional flat screen. Moreover, the singing and liturgical responses are not as fulfilling as they would be is one is there in person. The advantage of radio and podcasts is that you work with the “theatre of the mind”; thus you are actually encouraged to close your eyes “literally or figuratively” in prayer. At this point, you are able to “feel” a connection. This is similar to one’s personal prayers to God. Perhaps it is a lesson lost to a visually oriented generation. 
  • More importantly, audio-only is simpler, and it tends to steer people away from putting on a good “visual show” in worship with its supplement of PowerPoint slides, videos etc. Upload times are also reduced because of the reduced file sizes. This would be a break to busy ministers who are also the only tech “expert” in the congregation. 
  • There are ethical misgivings with platforms like Facebook and YouTube, etc. Their invasive tracking for profit as well as their negative influence on mental health and politics makes us as the “Church” if we should explore other more responsible platforms, even if they are not “free”. (opinion)

“Church” vs “Community of Faith”:

  • Church suggests “one by oneself”
  • Community of Faith suggests you are one of many churches in the same community – Denomination does not matter. Much easier to work together as you all are Communities of Faith.

Rural Connect:

  • Possibility of a future Seminar sharing about “Rural Connect”. Is this a good way for Churches without Clergy to be connected to the wider church? Is “Rural Connect” feasible for small rural congregations? http://www.ruralconnectucc.ca

Licensed Lay Worship Leaders (LLWL):

  • There are  limits for LLWL  in areas where there are no clergy (20% of churches in the East Central Ontario Region currently without called or appointed ministers and that includes the City of Ottawa – percentages of rural churches is even higher). Seems to be the story across Rural Canada.
  • Congregations fill in with pulpit supply where there can find it.  A non-licensed lay person could provide 30 or 40 or more services in their local church with no supervision beyond the pastoral charge supervisor which may also not be clergy and may be primarily involved with meetings.
  • LLWLs have paid their own educational costs and been trained in United Church Theology and polity, yet they are limited in how often they may preach at any one church.
  • There may be a pilot project in Manitoba in 2022 to extend the annual limits for a LLWL to serve at their own church more than the 10 Sundays allowed. The LLWL policy was created to serve another time in the church and to provide vacancies for clergy.
  • Check for current updates on LLWLs in our January ENews.

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