COVID had a major impact on us all, and on the community life of the church, but 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.  

https://www.youtube.com/c/StJohnsChurchWeymouth

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 April to August 2020 over 19 million people began participating in online expressions of church, very few of which previously attended regularly. For 2.5 million people it was their first experience of church life. Half of all 18-34 year olds across the country began attending online services at least once a month. (National surveys published in the Guardian, Observer and research by Durham University).

From March 2020 we 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.

And at the same time we established a WhatsApp group for church members to share encouragements, news, prayer requests and so on.  This took off rapidly and continues today to be the primary way in which news and prayer requests circulate around the church community.

Home groups and mid week prayer meetings all converted to weekly Zoom meetings – which worked surprisingly well.

We wondered if our “online congregation”on Sunday mornings 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.  

In early 2023 we were still continuing to see an average of 800 views a month, representing a community of maybe around 300 different people, who participate online from time to time each month.

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.

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. 

 

Church Lunch

 

Hospitality is very important to us as a church and Sunday lunches in the church are an important part of this, together with the Wednesday Pot Luck Lunches in the church, Men’s Breakfasts, and other larger social events. We also enjoy welcoming people informally into our own homes, and meeting in home groups is a very important of church life.

This is such a huge change from the time when no one was allowed to even enter the church. 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.”

Read the original article.

And here below is a reminder of those Lockdown days in late 2020 – a moving Christmas Poem to inspire and encourage you.

 

Social Media

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.

YouTube

COVID Safety Measures: Sunday mornings

It has been so good to meet normally in the church building again. It’s been great to see so many people of all ages coming 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 be respectful of others.

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.
  • When choosing your seat – please feel free to spread out and use the full space available.
  • Please be mindful of others need for space, especially those who may have medical conditions which make them more vulnerable to COVID, and for whom being around crowds of people can feel stressful.