Barring border restrictions, New Zealand is now, within our country, back to the freedoms enjoyed prior to Covid-19. Here are new lessons for us. Readers beyond our shores, still in different levels of lockdown, can still learn from the points in this post.

Welcoming New People

During lockdown, most Christian communities shifted into the Third Millennium and provided an online presence. Most reported a larger number of people connecting online than they had experienced previously In Real Life (IRL). In lockdown, many people had time to reflect on what is really important in life.

Post lockdown, many of these people who connected online are now wanting to see what this Christian community is like IRL.

Some new people have already popped in to the IRL worship, been disappointed, and probably will not return. An opportunity has been missed as the community has not thought through how to welcome new people.

It is understandable that, after months of being physically apart, people are very enthusiastic to be with one another again. But such a tight community may be off-putting for someone wanting to be part IRL of what they had encountered online.

Others, who are wanting to carefully and slowly dip their toe into the very alien reality of church, may experience being besieged by over-enthusiastic individuals, excited to finally have a new person in an ageing, shrinking congregation.

There also may (appropriately) be quite a difference between a community’s online presence and its IRL reality.

How are you helping people wanting to make the shift from online to IRL? What, online, are you presenting so that people can make this transition to IRL participation? How are you facilitating your IRL community to appropriately welcome new people?

Statistics

We all know there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. I have already written about how online statistics can give a false impression of numbers – someone looking briefly at a video and moving on can end up being counted the same as someone who has watched the whole, lengthy video. A good system should be able to distinguish such differences. And we should be honest with ourselves about those as different categories.

Some clergy have already entered into their community’s statistics the largest numbers found on such online statistical records. Some clergy are now adding their continuing online numbers to their IRL congregants. I am unaware of any suggestion, beyond this site, of the need to standardise church statistics, and I, for one, will not be surprised if, having locked down for months IRL, we end up with a significant increase in what communities present as their numbers present at services. Increasing statistics may cover decreasing, ageing congregations. Community finances may tell quite a different story to such misuse of online statistics.

Honest statistics are a weakness in NZ Anglicanism. Being thrust into the Third Millennium through this lockdown experience may exacerbate this.

Continuing Online?

Since lockdown, some communities have continued their online, Third-Millennium presence. Sadly, some wonderful online ventures have already been abandoned as if we are now simply back to the way we were – the Second Millennium we were so comfortable with previously!

Certainly, there may need to be a regrouping, rethinking, and refocusing – no one wants people to be overstretched. But discontinuing the good given in lockdown seems to be the worst of all the options.

A couple of local examples illustrate what all now know is possible with what most are carrying in their pocket. St Michael and All Angels in Christchurch has attached a simple, unobtrusive bracket to a pillar. It holds a phone – that is all that is needed to livestream the Sunday service. The parish priest simply continues to livestream his discipline of daily prayer. All Souls, Christchurch, similarly, livestreams daily prayer and Sunday services. People can participate in services IRL. Those who cannot be there IRL can pray with them, either at the time, or later.
St Michael and All Angels
All Souls

I have sadly, regularly tripped over church websites that give no easy indication of where they meet, what time they meet, etc. Now that lockdown is over, I am once again coming across church websites that, if I wanted to join their worship, I would have no clear idea when to go, where to go, let alone what to expect.

image source: composed by Rev. Bosco Peters liturgy.co.nz – if used, please attribute.

Previously:
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 1 (3 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 2 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 3 (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 4 (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 5 Teilhard’s Mass on the World (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 6 Agape Meal (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 7 (6 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 8 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 9 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 10 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 11 (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 12 (2 minutes reading time)

Some of the other resources and reflections on this site for this Covid19 context:
Exsultet
Holy Saturday in a Covid19 World
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter in a Covid19 World
Coronavirus solitude self-isolation and spirituality
Streaming services, online spiritual resources in coronavirus times
New Zealand Prayer Book Daily Prayer
NZ in lockdown
Covid 19 moves churches into the Third Millennium
Spiritual Communion
Carthusians Covid-19 and Communion
Learning from Hermits in a Covid19 World

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