New Life beyond COVID
COVID has had a major impact on us all, and on the community life of the church, but has also brought some unexpected blessings.
From online-only Services to face to face services in church + live streaming
We started online services on YouTube from week 1 of Lockdown in mid March 2020 and were astonished at how many participated.
Our normal congregation on Sundays had been around 100, but some of our services online soon had over 400 views, many of which were whole households watching. This was all part of a wider picture. Across the whole of the UK, during 2020 over 10 million people began participating in online expressions of church, very few of which previously attended regularly.
Since March 2020 we have developed a consistent online presence through weekly services and midweek talks on Youtube. We have also provided regular online input for kids, families and young people. Online services have drawn a huge number of new people to St John’s Church, and it has been so good to be able to engage with new people – both locally and globally.
Rev Tom Coopey led these services from places as varied as a country field, the Weymouth beach and even from a kayak out on the deep sea! (as featured in the local Press – Dorset Echo).
In July and August 2021, we began a transition to “normal” church services, with a series of very informal, family-friendly open air services at 10.30am, on the grass outside the church, with a wet weather option to be inside.
You can watch some of these open air services here: https://www.youtube.com/c/StJohnsChurchWeymouth
These were very popular, with many visitors, passers by walking in off the street, others watching from their windows around the church.
We wondered if our online congregation would begin to melt away as we began meeting physically again, but it has continued which is why we are continuing to live stream every 10.30am Sunday service. The image below is from a recent Live Stream on YouTube.
While our normal congregation on Sunday mornings before COVID was around 100, in mid September 2021, for one of our first “normal” services back in the church we had 140 present – with over 150 YouTube views in addition, many of which were more than one person watching.
And most weeks, people are turning up at church who have been getting to know us online for a while.
Some watch our online stream of services “live”, but most people who participate online tend to do so in the hours or days following.
Maybe you have been joining us online yourself. We hope and pray that you find these times helpful, in your own spiritual journey, and look forward to meeting you sometime, hopefully, one Sunday morning.
There is something extraordinary and spiritually powerful about meeting together physically. Jesus himself said that when two or three gather together in His name, He is there in the midst.
But if you are unable to do so, or prefer to join us from your own home, you can also chat to us online. For example if you have prayer needs, you can use the Chat button top right of this page.
In October 2021 we held a Harvest Lunch in the church, celebrating the re-opening of the building after major works, and after Lockdown, and the beginnings of relative normality. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet many new people face to face (at last) who had joined the church in Lockdown.
Hospitality is very important to us as a church and regular Sunday lunches will be an important part of this, alongside welcoming people informally into our own homes, and hosting home groups.
This is such a huge change from the time when no one was allowed to even enter the church, when all we could do was record services onto YouTube. But even in the darkest moments of Lockdown, the church was continuing to grow. Here’s press coverage in the Dorset Echo of Rev Tom Coopey, taking St John’s into new territory as a Virtual Church.
Recording teaching for Sunday morning – on a Kayak…
…and preaching into camera along the beach.
Tom says: “I’ve been really encouraged by feedback we’ve had from literally all over the world from our Virtual Services. COVID stopped us physically meeting for a while but didn’t close down the Church community. In fact quite the opposite. People are really open and turning to God, seeking spiritual comfort and help. All over the UK, people have found themselves participating in church who would never normally think of doing so. In fact a recent survey shows that a third of 18-35 year olds had viewed a Church service only in around 6 weeks of lockdown.”
And here below is a reminder of those Lockdown days in late 2020 – a moving Christmas Poem to inspire and encourage you.
Coronavirus restrictions have also prompted us to develop our social media presence and now the church has very active Twitter account as well as Facebook pages and online community groups.
The biggest change during lockdown was using Zoom for home groups, and prayer times, as well as for informal fellowship and chat after online services.
The other was the rapid growth of WhatsApp as an informal channel for church members to share – family news, prayer needs, encouraging bible verses and songs etc.
So out of all the challenges of Lockdown have come new expressions of church, new relationships, new forms of ministry, and new ways of connecting.
COVID Safety Measures: Sunday mornings
It has been so good to start meeting in the church building again. It’s been great to see so many people of all ages wanting to come back to church as well as a good number of new people and visitors too. It has also been nice to be having tea and coffee again. There has been a real buzz about the place in recent weeks. Exciting times! Praise God!!
Alongside this we also want church to continue be and feel safe for people as they come in and worship with us. Covid infection rates are on the rise locally and so – as part of our care for one another and our community – we need to continue to act responsibly and follow certain safety measures.
So when you attend church on Sundays please observe the following:
- Please do not come to church if you feel unwell or have Covid symptoms. The 10.30am service is now live streamed and you can join in and worship with us via the church youtube channel.
- Please wear a face covering as you enter, exit and move around the building.
- When choosing your seat – please feel free to spread out and use the full space available.
- Please continue to observe social distancing and be mindful of others need for space.
- When queuing for a drink – please leave a gap of at least 1 metre between you and the person in front of you.
- Please wear a face covering when in the queue.
- Once you have your drink – please leave the serving area promptly. Once you have found a spot away from the queue you can remove your face covering to drink your drink.
- Please either take your drink outside into the grounds or at least drink it well away from the queue / serving area.
- Please do not feel under any obligation to stay for / partake in refreshments. All are of course so welcome – but if you would rather not be in this environment then please feel very free not to stay.
Very similar measures will be in place for church lunches etc – and all will be explained in church.
These measures will continue to be reviewed but we ask that we observe them carefully and kindly in order to make church as safe as possible. Thank you so much for your co-operation and understanding.