Creatively worshipping together

Posted in Culture

Last week, when the Federal Government imposed restrictions on the number of people (100) who could meet together indoors, and then followed up those restrictions with a personal distancing requirement of four square metres per person, Uniting Church congregations from right around South Australia rallied to find new and creative ways to continue with corporate worship.

A number of congregations, especially those who have less than 100 members regularly attending, used the space inside their buildings to great advantage – appropriately distancing the chairs. Some congregations took their worship service outdoors to the car park or even to the lawns outside, and a large number of congregations explored options available by using technology such as the internet.

What social distancing looks like

“We were at Berri Uniting Church where the proper distancing of chairs etc happened. I wondered how the singing would go but it was fine and we chatted later at a proper distance. At Barmera we set up in the hall to allow the proper spacing. One neighbouring church met in their carpark to fulfil the need to be spaced,” commented Glenys Badger in a Facebook post.

Commenting on the photo posted by Moderator Bronte Wilson showing Ascot Park Community Church’s physical distancing seating arrangement, Jenny Wiese from Goolwa said: “That's what our church looked like this morning! Great worship encouragement and message online from our pastor who is self-isolating.”

Bronte’s photo elicited a great deal of comments, including the photo of Maitland UC accompanying this article, shared by Pastor Ann Phillips.

Some congregations held Zoom meetings, others are testing live broadcasts over Facebook and still others have created YouTube channels to publish recordings of their services.

For everyone, though, 15 March was likely to be the last worship service in quite some time where members would physically be together. Since last Sunday, new restrictions have closed down all places of worship, and congregations can no longer meet together face to face

Quite prophetically, Rev Dianne Holden commented on Facebook last Saturday: “Enfield UC will meet for the last time for the time being tomorrow - very spread out. Then it is time for us too to protect our most vulnerable. Online is beyond many of our people, so we are exploring other creative options.”

A word of thanks

The situation with the global pandemic is changing rapidly, and along with it, the impact on our lives as a community together.

Bronte feels that he cannot thank enough those who were involved in the creative solutions to meet together.

“Thank you to all those involved in creative and ‘strange’ ways of worshipping together last Sunday: to those who moved furniture to facilitate appropriate physical distancing, to those who presented to an empty room for video worship, to those who delivered printed resources to members staying home - I and the rest of the church thank you.”

Embracing change

He continued: “This week many of us will be worshipping differently again, as places of worship, no matter what size, cannot have worshippers present. There will be many different worship and devotional offerings available and if the choices of your own congregation are not suitable for you, there are other options available.”

Bronte reminds everyone that the SA Synod website, as well as the websites of the individual Presbyteries, will have information and resources available which will point congregations to different options. These include lists of congregations who are doing livestreaming, podcasts or other online worship-sharing methods, as well as options for those for whom the digital world is not a realistic alternative.

“Worship is only a part of the life of congregations and I encourage everyone to maintain connections and relationships in different ways. A phone call or a brief visit, maintaining appropriate physical distancing, can be significant for someone with little social interaction,” he says.

Those brief visits could, for instance, include physical copies of printed Sunday worship services, the congregational newsletter and the April/May edition of New Times magazine, which will be sent to churches next week.

The Easter postcards and other Easter resources, which can be downloaded (for free) from the Synod website, adapted to contain a personalised message from the Minister or Church Council and printed at home or professionally,  are another great way to let members (and the wider community) know you care. The current Easter resources are being adapted by the Synod Communications team to allow for easy, home-made changes and will be available from early next week.

“Please continue to pray for those around you and for God’s peace and guidance in the weeks ahead,” encourages Bronte.

For more information on how regulations and our social responsibility regarding COVID-19 are impacting the way we do church together, please keep referring to the updates on the SA Synod website or those of your Presbytery.



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