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One of our former parishioners was flying home after a family funeral here. We were all worried for her, so she wrote to show us the empty airport that was her “church” Sunday morning while she watched the worship videos. 

By Lawrene Denkers

Like you, we in our village congregation spent some time in shock this week that public worship was cancelled.

Before that shock had worn off, however, we, again like you, got to work, in the real and virtual worlds.

Job One was to batten down the hatches in the real world of the church and hall. With no one using them for at least a month, the altar flowers needed to be composted, recycling removed, supplies for the now-cancelled community luncheon stashed and frozen, water turned off, and so on. We updated the lettering on the signboard “uptown” to let passersby know what was up. We posted the Bishop’s letter, the Archdeacon’s letter, and local contact information on our door, as did the other churches in our parish. Phone calls were made and received checking that community members were okay and had what they needed.

Job Two was to think of how to continue to be a church, how to practice Love in the Time of COVID-19

That would happen in the virtual world.

When our warden wrote to say she went to church with her feet up in the sunshine (see the quotes), we wanted to see!

We turned to the village and parish Facebook pages to get the word out about the cancellations, and we updated the parish website.

I am the parish webmaster, and I have to admit that everything looked a bit sad at that point. The worship schedule was a string of “service cancelled, service cancelled, service cancelled” in bold red, a discouraging design decision.

I remembered that we have media capabilities on our website, little used until now, and so offered to set up a video page.

Our clergy, the Rev’d Dr. Justin Comber and the Rev’d Dr. Lisa Wang, ran with it. They set up a parish YouTube channel and a schedule for a series of videos that would include pastoral notes, brief morning prayer services, and homilies, then made the first set of recordings, all in a matter of hours.

The string of cancellations could now be framed in the positive. “Service cancelled” was replaced with “service available on our video page”. Still bold and red, but so much cheerier!

Word went out Saturday night by email that the videos were made, with instructions as to how to access them from our website. If you want to have a look yourself, they are at under the WORSHIP VIDEOS tab.

Sunday morning, the comments started to roll in!

“…it helped to make my Sunday morning feel like I was connected to the rest of our congregation.”

“…such meaningful videos!”

“Rev’d Lisa said it! ‘We do not have to gather together to worship together as we can worship in spirit together’.”

“It was rather strange partaking of a worship service, well, in my jammies! …I will finally be able to share our service with [my husband] after many years of him not being able to attend… I’m hoping that … we will be able to reach out to many of our former members who have for one reason or another not been able to attend regular services.”

“I’m glad someone knows how to put something like this together…”

“I have a long layover [at the airport]. I’m looking forward to watching while I wait.”

“Well, I just went to church with my feet up basking in the beautiful sunlight of my living room window. There is no reason for us to say we don’t have time when we are all looking at such a big change in our active lifestyle. Dare to pause and notice your feet on the pathway to remembering God’s faithfulness as we look forward with hope.”

“One word (or more): this is amazing!… We will not let this virus interrupt our worship. Even from someone who is not very ‘computer literate’ this is/was most welcome.”

We, in this parish, are taking social distancing very seriously, but it is not keeping any of us from feeling cared for, and grateful to have a church family for support.

What is your parish doing right now, right in the midst of this pandemic? Is it surprising? (We’re certainly a little surprised here.) Will you write to the Huron Church News to say?

Lawrene Denkers is a parishioner of St Matthew’s, Florence Parish of the Transfiguration