The last couple of months have been a steep learning curve, exploring how do we best gather together in CCE when we can’t meet in the King’s Hall. I wanted to write a few brief thoughts on what we are doing and why.

We have settled on using zoom, in the main as it seems helpful for many to see the faces of others in the CCE community, and to allow a more real-time and somewhat spontaneous Sunday gathering. It allows us to hear from different voices, and most of it is live. And even though there are many we don’t hear from, we can see their faces, which I have valued in this strange season of not being able to meet together (and I know others have too).

I am also looking for something that is sustainable in the medium term, as it could be a while before we are able to meet together physically in the King’s Hall. Doing things live on zoom requires some planning, but it is possible to involve a wide group of people and is possible on an ongoing basis, without huge amounts of time during the week to produce content.

Doing things live does mean that not everything goes to plan! We are learning the technology and things just go wrong. I know this can be frustrating when someone appears on the livestream who wasn’t expecting to, because their mic is on. Thank you for the grace you have all shown when things haven’t quite gone according to plan. We are seeking to do this well and proficiently, but doing it live will always be messier than something pre-recorded. It also has the advantage of being family and showing us as we are when we meet in the King’s Hall.

I have also wanted to allow visitors to get a window into the CCE family – joining a zoom link can be a barrier, hence the desire to live-stream to Facebook (and now YouTube). This has complicated the technology and the things that go wrong, but in my view is worth it so that we have an open front door (albeit in the virtual world). Most of us check things out online before we visit/buy in the real world, and the church needs to provide the same opportunities to others who aren’t yet part of church.

This has also had the advantage for others in CCE who prefer watching on Facebook or catching up later on YouTube. If you use these platforms, can I encourage you to do two things:

1. First, do use the chat function on both to engage others who are watching. On-line stats of people viewing are not worth much, but engagement is key. And it can start by those in CCE using the chat function to engage others.

2. Secondly, how about sharing the Facebook video on your timeline? It is a great way to let your friends and work-colleagues, family or neighbours know of what you are involved with, and you never know, they may be curious? There has been a recent survey by Tearfund which showed that people are significantly more interested in prayer & church than they prior to the pandemic and are tuning in to online services. This is such as easy thing to do and might help someone in their journey towards faith.

There are 3 other things I want to mention before finishing:

1. Bread and wine – there is a poignancy in taking bread and wine online – we remember we are the body of Christ. In some traditions they “share the peace” to recognise this, by shaking hands or giving someone a hug. We can’t do this in real life, but coming together online, reminds us that we aren’t alone; we might be spatially distant but we don’t need to be socially distant; and we anticipate a time when we can meet together again (which echoes the greater anticipation of new age to come and the Great feast that awaits). I’d really encourage us all to join with this when you can.

2. Break Out rooms on Sunday mornings –  One of the surprising things is that when we are separate, we can actually connect with people in deeper ways! I’ve seen more of my in-laws and family on Zoom than I normally do! And the breakout rooms at the end of Sunday (straight after bread and wine) are a great way of have a short chat with some people, perhaps people that you haven’t met before. This can deepen our sense of family & community in CCE. I know for some folk there is an anxiety about talking with people we don’t know, but I’d encourage us to give it a go – you don’t have to stay for long, but it is a great and relatively easy way of meeting some other folks. I know some have family things to attend to, but if you can, do come and join this social connecting time.

3. Prayer – Many churches and church leaders are sensing a call to pray during this season, to ask for God’s help for our nation, our political leaders, the NHS and scientists etc. The Sunday evening prayer at 7pm has become a special time of praying together, and bringing these things before the Lord. If you have joined us, again I’d encourage you to give it a go – although I know it isn’t a great time for some families etc.

As a Leadership Team we are talking and praying about what we might do as lockdown gets lifted a bit. We’ll seek to let you into some of our things as the weeks unfold, but any feedback or thoughts would be welcome.

This a strange time for us all, with a range of different personal experiences. I believe God is at work in the midst of all this, and there are opportunities in the midst of this change and upheaval. Thank you to all of you for adapting with us and journeying with us – it is so meaningful to be walking together.

With blessings,