Doing Church in a new way?
You might like to speculate on the effect of the lockdown on normal church worship/attendance once we get over the epidemic. Some people fear that it may depress numbers. Some might think that would be no bad thing. There are, after all, other ways of being or doing church, and perhaps what is happening now will demonstrate this. For example, when the Archbishop of Canterbury did his first ever national virtual service a few days ago, recorded in the crypt chapel of Lambeth Palace, it was seen or heard by an estimated five million people: 3 million via Facebook and 2 million via BBC local Radio and Radio 4. On the same morning hundreds of churches and cathedrals also tried live-streaming services, attracting several thousand viewers on the stream and playback.
That compares with less than 1 million who attend services and acts of worship each week in normal times.
So could we manage without normal church worship? It would save an awful lot of money, and that could become quite important as every organisation tightens its belt going forward.
On the other hand, today on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day Tim Stanley, a journalist, said that when he was watching a service being streamed he felt two things were missing: he was not in a Sacred Space, and the service lacked a Social Dimension. He actually felt that the lack of the Social Dimension had taught him something. Normally he liked to go to church and keep himself to himself (plus God). In the future he realised he needed to make a greater effort to be part of a worshipping community.
I agree! I think physical space, especially Sacred Space, and the social dimension of worship are critical. OK, you can get along without them for a while in a crisis, but not forever. Perhaps I am out of touch, but if I am right perhaps more people in the future will take more seriously the idea of attending church. Do folks really want their churches and chapels to end up as dance studios, play barns or warehouses for carpets or second hand furniture???