Revd Mark Ansell, St Davids Diocese
Producing one online service for five churches with different traditions has been a challenge, admits Revd Mark Ansell, Team Vicar of Aberystwyth Ministry Area
As it began to look that we were moving towards the halting of large gatherings, we decided that it was important to continue Sunday services in a different format. Our online service is a compilation of prayer, worship and teaching, recorded in advance and broadcast on the internet at 11am each Sunday. This has proved to be a much more flexible way of producing a service.
Almost everyone is able to contribute – simply by recording a short video on their phone or with a webcam, and we have a number of technically talented people who can stitch things together to produce a complete service.
The services have been watched by around 1,000 people, and received much positive feedback. They have been reaching people who would never normally come to a church building for a service, which is great to see.
We do not know what the effect of these broadcasts will be when we return to meeting again. Maybe we will have attracted new people – or maybe our regulars will be used to watching from their lounges and won’t come to worship together anymore. That’s something that we’ll find out! We intend to continue to stream our services even when we are back in our buildings.
One challenge has been the fact that we are producing one united service for all five of our ministry area churches. The congregations all have different styles and traditions of worship, so our online service is a combination of all of these styles, which has been both received both positively (“diversity & variety”) and negatively (“this isn’t the sort of thing that we usually do”.)
Our Welsh congregation in St Mair is also holding a service of traditional Evening Prayer – Hwyrol Weddi – through video-conferencing. After the service the congregation (20 recently, roughly double the usual evening numbers) went into virtual “break-out rooms” for chatting.
We’re still learning lots about online services and what works. One thing we’ve found that is very different is the need to break up items into smaller segments. In a normal service in St Michael’s Church we might have 25 minutes of sung worship, and later feature a sermon which would last half-an-hour. We’ve found that it is better to break up these into smaller bite-size chunks for those watching at home, so a talk would now normally be in two or three parts.
We’ve also created a range of videos and activities for children and youth too.