Sometimes when two things are put together it works. Other times you just ruin the two things you have joined together. You either get the best of both or a compromise that doesn’t really work for anyone.
Churches across the country, and the world, were forced into new ways of working when we were places in lockdown. We discovered online worship, learned how to record, edit and upload. We are joining in on our smartphones, laptops, tablets and even smart TVs.
But of course, it’s not the same as joining together in person.
And that’s to be expected. The experience might be similar in some respects but there will be many things that are different. Some of those will be positive differences, like being able to watch when it suits or being able to join in from your own home if you were not able to come to church.
Online services, meetings and learning allow us to do different things in new ways, as well as to do many things we have been doing for years in a slightly different way.
And that’s all ok when it’s all we have.
But what about when church reopens? What happens when there is a choice, a comparison or even a competitor?
Will church become a hybrid or in-person and online? And if it does, what will that look like?
St Ninian’s has had a website for years where recorded services have been posted as audio files. Now the site has been transformed with lots more content, video services and we have a growing Facebook presence, a YouTube channel and a couple of podcasts.
More than 500 devices have been tuning in each week to our online services. That’s probably somewhere closer to 700 people watching if we assume some people watch together. We have had Sunday School, cafe church, meetings, morning prayers, bible study and shared communion.
Online church isn’t going away.
In-person church isn’t going away either. Meeting for prayer, worship, to baptise people and share in communion, as well as sharing a cup of coffee are vital. But we need to give some serious thought to what that looks like.
Sp, what will our hybrid church be like? What will a combination of in-person and online church look like for us?
We should probably design it rather than just mashing the two together and hoping it works.