Zoom Ministry: Using Tech To Connect
If the Covid-19 pandemic has you scrambling to adopt new methods of corporate worship, you might want to consider the lowly telephone. A congregation in central Montgomery County that originally began using Zoom, a hybrid phone/online platform, to engage isolated elders, is now at the forefront of prepared congregations. It turns out what’s good for socially isolated older adults is good for congregants of every persuasion when public health concerns dictate a preponderance of caution.
To see how it works, call in to St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church for a service of compline Wednesday, March 11 at 7pm or Thursday, March 12 at 8pm using the accompanying details. A Q&A session will follow.
St. Mary Magdalene initially adopted Zoom, an online platform that allows people to join conference calls through either a video link or a regular phone line, for formations. As a multicultural parish with a wide catchment area, the logistics of Baptism, confirmation, and wedding preparations were radically simplified by the shift to Zoom. But when clergy tried a phone-in Evening Prayer service for Advent 2017, they discovered a bonus: active participation by older adult members, including some who had not been to church in over two years.
“The idea came about because we realized that most of our housebound parishioners were not able to access our Facebook page to watch Sunday services,” said the Rev. Sarah Lamming, rector. “We wanted to see if they would use the phone, instead.” The answer was a resounding “Yes!,” with longtime members reconnecting with each other --and the church--after hiatuses not of their choosing. The age range on the calls actually stretched from 9 to 89, making the service also intergenerational. Bonus!
“One housebound parishioner told me, ‘I feel connected to God again,’” said Lamming, who quickly moved to expand what she calls her “Zoom ministry.” Tuesday evenings at 7 o’clock now find St. Mary Magdalene praying Compline -- and for one another -- all facilitated by Zoom. Participants use a large-print booklet of compline with additional prayers. The group has about 12 -14 on each week from about 25 regulars.
The success of the Tuesday Compline service inspired Lamming to add two additional ten- minute prayer times where people just listen. On Wednesday mornings the focus is on praying for the world in this time of political uncertainty. On Fridays the focus is on a time of healing. These services are now international, with people from both the U.S. and the U.K. dialing in.
At St. Mary Magdalene, the same technology that facilitates various ministries and meetings by eliminating obstacles -- whether icy roads, the need to find a babysitter, or traffic--is reconnecting older adults with their faith community. And now, it is proving a vital worship tool for the entire congregation. Let’s hope that when this medical trauma has passed, those congregants inconvenienced by temporary social distancing realize that for many, the isolation is year round. View the service brochure and learn more here.