Thank you for your patience this evening. We hit a number of inexplicable technical difficulties this evening while uploading the service, for example with YouTube’s copyright algorithm refusing to let us include our own music in the service! Revd Malcolm has now successfully streamed the worship service, so do go to the Circuit YouTube Channel to follow along this evening or during the coming week.
Is a Hybrid Church the new way following Lock down? A brief report by Marion and Tom Watts following attendance at two virtual meetings organised by the Learning Network, West midlands. Led by Deacon Kerry Scarlet, John Pedley and Geoff Bond.
Marion and I and others from Sutton Park Circuit were at two interesting and exciting virtual meetings on the mornings of Tuesday and Thursday 28 and 30 July about worshipping in a Hybrid Church. What is a hybrid church I hear you ask? Well very simply it is “a gathering online and in person”. Prior to the virus lock down we met for worship in church and since lock down some of us have worshipped in virtual congregations via technology, face book etc. A hybrid act of worship could combine the traditional worship in our buildings for those able and interested and link it to those who want to be part of worship via the use of modern technology.
Note for number geeks: Some figures from the first meeting, if every link counted on a virtual worship on average represents two people worshipping (some just one, others couples and up to families of five) then the Birmingham District Easter Day Service had well over 1,000 worshippers during the service and we have over 500 worshippers on a typical Sunday. I have included those thoughts to let you know about surveys mentioned in our meeting. Three separate surveys have recorded that between 24% and 27% of people in the UK are joining in a virtual act of worship on a Sunday. Surveys prior to the virus showed 7-10% attended worship in a Christian Church on a typical Sunday. We don’t have to be a number geek to see the potential!
I’m sure that everyone who has watched a virtual service cannot fail to be impressed by the number of different people from all ages and all backgrounds who have taken part in the leading of such services; demonstrating its potential. The first grouping of these additional numbers applies to the younger elements of society. It has been a breath of fresh air to be part of the Birmingham District acts of worship on Sunday mornings, the music has been to an exceptional standard, the sermons have been challenging with real Good News and the testimony supplied by the younger members of our churches has been amazing. We would all agree that the future of the church lies with people younger than 40 and particularly those aged below 25 and it is these age ranges that have shared their faith so openly and so meaningfully.
The hybrid church is seen as worship that is available both in our re-opened buildings and also available to people’s homes by technology. This means that our churches have the opportunity to attract those tasting the Christian Faith by technology, those who have difficulties in making it to church on many Sundays and those who want to return to the building; particularly for direct fellowship with each other. If we are unable to sing in the building, then there will be those who may for a change want to join the services online so that they may enjoy singing along. All of which demonstrates the wonderful potential for bringing worship into today’s world and attracting new people and others that have previously given up. One thing that this will mean is that congregations need to brush-up on their evangelism, sharing with new people online, discussing worship styles and introducing new ways and telling people that church now offers the possibility to worship within a building or at home, all making use of exciting technology that we can share together and with our communities.
The second meeting was particularly showing interest in inclusive church particularly for people with disabilities. Hybrid church will mean that we can be available to people who may consider themselves on the margins of society, those for whom going to a church building is fraught with difficulties, those who can’t always get the transport organised and also those for whom Sunday morning is simply too much hassle. Some more figures: 20% of children have special needs and therefore this often means their families find it impossible to attend a church building; yet it does not necessarily mean they’re not interested in the Christian Faith. 45% of people with disabilities are over 65, how many of these might find hybrid church as their way to Jesus? Finally, 90% of families with children, who have special needs are unchurched; surely the church should be able to respond to such families with the love of God.
The leaders of these meetings will shortly be letting us have more details about the meetings and the way forward for the Christian ‘Hybrid’ Church and we will hope to be able to share these with our circuit churches.
So, Hybrid Church! How exciting is that, how many more people will be given the opportunity to come to Christ because God’s gift of technology is at last being put to real use, how many of our churches will be able to share the love of God with people on the fringes of faith?
With prayer, discussion in house groups, reading of the new ideas as they are born, more discussion in church meetings, with volunteers and of course the direction of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, as has happened so many times throughout the history of God’s people, just perhaps, this terrible time of lock down and suffering will, with God’s Grace, enable us in the Sutton Park Methodist Circuit to bring hybrid church to our community, country and, who knows to play our part in reaching out to the world the world. With God’s help we may become a church that doesn’t sit and wait, but a church that reaches out; Alleluia amen!
Marion and Tom Watts
Everyone is welcome to join us tonight at 6:30pm. The service this week is being broadcast via YouTube and can also be accessed by the Sutton Park Methodist Facebook Page. The preacher tonight is Revd Stephen Froggatt and Revd Malcolm Oliver will be breaking bread.
There is also a Circuit Youth and Junior Church Service at 4pm led by Deacon Rachel Thomas-Prasad. Please contact Malcolm for Zoom details.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has launched a free national phone line as a simple new way to bring worship and prayer into people’s homes while church buildings are closed because of the coronavirus.
Daily Hope, which is available from today, offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
DailyHope phoneline – 0800 804 8044
The service is supported by the Church of England nationally as well as through the Connections group based at Holy Trinity Claygate in Surrey and the Christian charity Faith in Later Life.
Although thousands of churches across the country are now running services and prayer groups online while public worship remains suspended, many people – especially older people – do not have access to the internet.
The line also recognises the impact of social distancing restrictions and self-isolation measures on those suffering from loneliness. Statistics from Age UK suggest that 49% of older people believe the TV or a pet to be their daily source of comfort and interaction. While many organisations are encouraging people to use better use of technology, ONS figures also state that 2.5 million people aged 75 and above have never used the internet.
Callers will hear a special greeting from the Archbishop before being able to choose from a range of options, including hymns, prayers, reflections and advice on COVID-19.
Options available include materials also available digitally by the Church of England’s Communications team such as Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer, updated daily, from Common Worship, and a recording of the Church of England weekly national online service.
A section called Hymn Line offers callers a small selection of hymns, updated daily. An option entitled ‘Hymns We Love’, provides a hymn and reflection and is based on an initiative by the Connections group
Archbishop Justin said:
“With many in our country on lockdown, it’s important that we support those who are feeling lonely and isolated, whatever age they are. The Daily Hope service will allow people to hear hymns, prayers and words that offer comfort and hope, especially in this Easter season. I want to urge people to spread the news about this service. If there is someone you know who is particularly struggling, give them a call and let them know about the Daily Hope. I’m going to phone a friend; will you join me?”
Carl Knightly, chief executive of Faith in Later Life, added:
“The Church must be those who offer hope to our nation at this time, and I am delighted that Faith in Later Life is able to be part of this project. We know as an organisation of the challenges for older people in our society in normal times and these are not those, so I want to add our voice to that of the Archbishop and get people sharing this number with whoever they know who would most benefit.”
Pippa Cramer, founder of Connections, said:
“At Connections we have found that well-loved hymns are a source of comfort and hope to our seniors. Hymns we Love has proved to be an accessible and popular way to explore the story and meaning behind some of our favourite hymns.”
Notes for readers
Connections – One of the largest weekly gatherings for seniors in the UK, Connections welcomes over 150 guests to Holy Trinity Church in Claygate, Surrey. Started 10 years ago by Pippa Cramer, its vision is “to create a safe and welcoming community for seniors where they can connect with each other and the church and to provide the opportunity to demonstrate and share the love of Jesus”. It reaches elderly church and non-church members, many of whom are lonely and isolated, building a community of support and friendship that has also served as a bridge into church.
Faith in Later Life seeks to inspire and equip Christians to reach, serve and empower older people through the local Church and to encourage older Christians in their faith. A key part of the Faith in Later Life mission is encouraging churches to reach older people of any faith or none in the wider community who may be isolated or lonely, and sharing the hope, love and good news of Jesus Christ.
Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer audio are available on Soundcloud and via the Church’s free Time To Pray app.
The weekly online service is available from 9am each Sunday and this, as well as the full range of national resources, can be accessed on our church online page. This is all provided by the Church of England Communications team.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY: Monday, 27 April 2020
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lectionary Passages for Year A Easter 3 (see MWB p578):
Acts Reading: Acts 2.14a, 36-41
Psalm: Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
Epistle: 1 Peter 1.17-23
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Lectionary Passages for Year A Easter 2 (see MWB p578):
Acts Reading: Acts 2.14a, 22-32
Psalm: Psalm 16
Epistle: 1 Peter 1.3-9
Gospel: John 20.19-31
This week’s reflection on the Lectionary passages is here.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Down through the centuries, that Easter Acclamation has rung out on Easter Day, from first dawn, to the evening light, proclaiming the end – not just of the night passed, but of darkness for ever. Death is defeated, and the Light of Christ has entered the world, never to be extinguished.
As Revd Alan explained in his recent Blog posts, we are learning to experience a little of what it is like to be living in exile, singing the songs of lament. Yet we do so with the trusting faith of the psalmist who proclaims repeatedly at the end of the lament – “Yet will I praise my Lord and my God, for he is faithful and his love is everlasting”.
Easter means that the darkness will never again take the upper hand. More soberly still, not even the death of those we love is able to separate us from the love of God. In the face of death, and through the tears of grief, we can sing as we weep, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow” and “Thine be the glory”. Easter gives us a hope that the world cannot give.
We are also learning how to be church when we can’t leave our homes. Using video conferencing platforms like Zoom or WhatsApp for staff meetings has broadened to include Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, Home Groups and Fellowship Groups. Watching live broadcasts over Facebook or YouTube includes the opportunity not just to participate but also to connect to people beyond the normal geographical boundaries.
We can’t meet to share in Holy Communion, but we can fast and pray, as Revd Alan says. We can develop a spiritual hunger for renewed fellowship. Yet we can also take bread and wine, tea, toast, cake, scones, biscuits (even jelly and ice cream!) – whatever we have to hand – and deliberately and mindfully consume them. As we do so, we can be aware that the God we worship is bigger than all our doctrines and buildings and traditions, and that this God can meet us where we are even in the simplicity of a shared family meal.
On the first Easter the old order was broken for ever. So it is for us. We will never go “back to the way we were”. We will never go back to the old normal – it will be a new normal, and it is precisely in the newness of life that we encounter God’s relentless re-creation of each new day. We are called to be co-creators with God. We are called to behold the one who says “See! I am doing a new thing!” And we are called to join in with the Missio Dei – the work and purpose of God.
That first Easter changed history. We are living in a history-making era, and future generations will look back and see how well we handled this pandemic. Will they see how the churches took charge of social care while the hospital staff took charge of medical care? Or will they ask what the churches did when they had a chance? Will they encounter the risen Christ amongst the empty Church buildings or amongst the supermarket cashiers, the shelf-fillers and the delivery drivers?
That first Easter changed the way the world saw those first disciples. Previously they were viewed as simple, illiterate fishermen. Suddenly they were transformed into fearless preachers of a radical new gospel. This virus outbreak is already changing the way we view our lowest-paid workers, as we realise that it is them who actually hold this country together.
Jesus turned the world upsidedown. Easter reset history. We are living through uncomfortable times and there will be no going back.
But what of tomorrow? In Luke’s Gospel, the final pages give us the story of the Road to Emmaus. The encounter with the unexpected and unrecognised Christ is one that keeps repeating. Even as we tread the weary paths around the house, shuffling between TV and kitchen and bedroom and bathroom, we can be aware, if we look, of the One who walks with us, accompanying us even in those moments when we feel most alone.
Easter changes everything. Many have locked themselves into their homes and many are afraid. But God is far, far greater than a lockdown. This Jesus appeared to the disciples when they were afraid, and when they were in lockdown.
Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
The peace of the risen Christ be with you all, and with all those you love, and with all those who love you, today and always. Amen.
Easter Streamed Service – Birmingham District
The Birmingham District will seek again to offer Sunday worship at 10:30am
See their website for details.
Other Worship At Home Resources
Our friends at Family Friendly Churches are offering, free of charge, weekly prayers, address and a couple of hymns as videos (with words and music) for use within the home. These can be found here.
The Worship Cloud are producing a free weekly sheet as well as making our Local Arrangement services freely available. See here.
Roots On The Web are also generously making plenty available at their site here.
For other streamed services and worship resources, please see the Four Oaks Church Website.