Technology will be key to 'a new emergence' of Christian church from coronavirus

WHILE publishing sermons online is nothing new - the increased congregations tuning in to live-streamed worship present the opportunity for the “emergence of a new way” for the church, the Bishop of Kirkstall said.

The Rt Rev Paul Slater, Bishop of Kirkstall, is responsible for churches in the Leeds city area. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Rt Rev Paul Slater, who is responsible for churches in the Leeds city area, said the end of lockdown presents clergy with an opportunity to change how they interact with their parishioners, and that the good use of technology is key moving forward.

While physical church buildings in Leeds have closed during the crisis, many have turned to live streaming service Zoom to ensure worshippers can get spiritual fulfilment at home.

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Bishop Paul said: “Certainly, we’ve had more people tuning into Zoomed worship than we would have physically in church on a Sunday. Whether this will last, who knows, but there has been greater reach in terms of worship.

“There is something really important about gathering physically together and for those who receive communion, it is a very key part of their spiritual life. But I think we will be wanting to keep a more virtual presence in terms of our worship.

“It’s not just a question of when this will finally all go away, and recovering and going back to what we were before, but it's about emerging with some new practices and new ways of doing stuff.”

It’s not just sermons where technology has changed things for clergy. It has been used to care for grieving families and even for the training of clergy.

“One of the hardest things for clergy has been caring for bereaved families has been very difficult,” Bishop Paul said. “But again, clergy have had Zoom meetings with families. Sometimes if families are from further afield, they've had prayers over the phone, knowing that that was going to be the day they were going to be cremated.”

A planned study day for clergy that was due to take place in Garforth last month was streamed instead of cancelled, presenting more opportunities for the future.

Bishop Paul added: “We should do more of it. We could have people from round the world come and join us.There are quite interesting positive spin offs - thinking creatively, using what technology we have got available and making good use of it.”