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by the Revd Peter Crumpler, a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and a former communications director for the CofE. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has “propelled the Church into the contemporary world,” says a new report from CPAS, an Anglican evangelical mission agency working with UK and Irish churches. ‘Everyone Welcome Online’ looks at the lockdown’s impact on churches and concludes, “Last month we were the Odeon, today we are Netflix. 

“In the 1950s, the Odeon was okay, but then along came consumer choice, individualism and crowded complex lifestyles. Then came TV film channels, and now Netflix, Prime and others, where you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are on whatever you’ve got.”

The authors, Bob Jackson and George Fisher, say “The Government has shut our ‘Odeons’ down, so in response we have stumbled into ‘Homespun Netflix’ and it’s looking promising.

“Most churches going online have discovered that far more people are accessing their services than ever came to the building. What seemed initially to be a devastating blow to churches may actually generate growth.”

Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox described the 26-page report as “An astonishingly thorough and perceptive overview of online church.” 

The authors, who devised the popular ‘Everybody Welcome’ course published by Church House Publishing, include feedback from churches experiencing increased numbers of people logging in for online services, both live and recorded. 

One church reported “We’ve had a huge number of hits, many more than the number of people in church on a Sunday, connecting with people who would not come to a regular service.” 

The report analyses who is responding and detects groups ranging from friends and family of church members, to the housebound with links to the church, people linked by christenings, weddings or funerals, people who have moved away, occasional churchgoers and people who have found the church through a denominational or diocesan link.

The authors encourage churches to make contact with people who are ‘dropping in’ to the services, suggesting “Contact as many people as you can to say hello and how nice it was to see them connect with the church, and ask how they are and how the church can help them.”

People are finding it easier to access church online because they can join in the services without feeling concerned about ‘doing the wrong thing’ – like standing or sitting at the ‘wrong’ time – they don’t have to enter a strange building and meet new people and  they can access the services at a time that suits them.

One church reported: “One previously non-churchgoer said that online she felt comfortable, fully part of the service and so more welcomed than if she had been in the building unsure of how to behave.”

The report’s authors are keen to hear from churches about their experiences during lockdown and ask people to contact them at allarewelcome2020@gmail.com

The ‘Everyone Welcome Online’ report can be accessed free at: https://www.cpas.org.uk/church-resources/understanding-christian-leadership/everyone-welcome-online/everybody-welcome-online/#.Xs-E7UBFxPY

Source : Parish Pump