Some Suffolk churches have seen a 300% increase in those attending Sunday service thanks to their innovative approach to lockdown.
Churches throughout the Diocese of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury have turned to livestreaming, with more than 130 of their Sunday and weekday worship services as well as other activities for all ages, moving online. This comes after churches were told to close alongside a whole host of other businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Revd Amy Key, of St Augustine’s Church in Ipswich, has been providing daily short services via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and the church’s website. Sunday services have been streamed live on Facebook and then posted on YouTube.
“Our typical Sunday main service in church would have a congregation of between 175 and 200 people,” Amy said. “For the first six weeks of our live streamed services, our average number of views was nearly 800. It’s really encouraging to know that we are reaching beyond our known St Augustine’s Church community. It’s fantastic to have engagement in terms of comments and shares from people who haven’t had any contact with the church before.” She added: “We are providing a message of hope in what is quite a bleak situation. We know that there are people we can reach in this digital form that we can’t in the same format before. We have had 22 people sign up to our Alpha course online which is really exciting avenue.”
Many of the church’s online offerings incorporate children’s activities and messy play, coffee and chat as well as worship, singing and Bible study.
The Revd Canon Julia Lall, rector of South Hartismere Benefice, believes the increase in people watching the services is down to flexibility. She said: “For a lot of people who don’t normally come to church, it’s the fact that they can access it in a way that suits them. When I stream a Sunday service of worship and prayer, I normally get 20 to 30 people who view it at that time but then the numbers hit more than 100 throughout the day as they can watch it when they like. People are also very anxious at the moment. They want comfort and that presence of knowing someone is there.”
Plans are now afoot to continue reaching new audiences with the online services when lockdown ends.
Revd Canon Lall added: “My church family are getting used to the online services so I’m keen to continue with them once lockdown eases and churches can reopen.”
It is not just the live services that have attracted interest. The Bishops have been filming six morning prayers a week which achieve an average reach of 1,329 people.
And for those without access to the internet, weekly worship emails have been printed and sent out.
To find details of the live streamed services, visit this page of our website.
Tuesday 5th May 2020