Written by: Jennifer Dennis
Article source: Supplied

Internet use is on the rise worldwide, with people in South Africa spending an average of 8 hours and 25 minutes online every day. This puts the country at number 6 globally, surpassing the worldwide average of just 6 hours and 41 minutes. In these unprecedented times people are looking for connection and solace in the face of Covid-19. We are increasingly feeling disconnected from one another, and while the scripture can be a great source of comfort, the threat of the virus has limited our access to church services. The internet, however, has offered us a solution to this problem: digital videos and conferences have provided an unlikely means of connecting us to our churches.

Online Church Services
Given the fact that the virus has prevented us from congregating in large numbers, businesses have looked to digital events platforms in order to connect their employees. The same platform models can, and have, been applied to churches and congregants. Whether you’re simply recording a video to put online, or live streaming your service for people to engage with in real time, bringing the church online is sure to benefit congregants and ministers alike. Video conferencing apps saw a record 62 million downloads in March alone. Utilising this space to help bring people together with their faith may offer a solution long after Covid-19.

Broadens the Reach of the Church
The first and obvious appeal to bringing church services online is its ability to drastically increase the church’s reach. In these times of uncertainty and stress, people are looking to the church for comfort and help through their difficult moments. While they may be currently unable to walk into their local church, connecting people via their phone or laptop will be  invaluable for ushering new members into the congregation. Rather than reducing the number of people in contact with the church, digital accessibility can drastically increase it.

Safer for Vulnerable Congregants
Nowhere is this broader reach more important than for vulnerable congregants within the church. For the people the virus presents the greatest threat, the option to interact with their faith through the church, and the wider religious community, can make all the difference. Live streaming a service, while perhaps initially difficult for the techno-phobic, connects the infirm who perhaps haven’t been inside a church for years. While the virus has made housebound people even more isolated in many aspects of their day to day lives, bringing them online will make them feel more connected than ever. Bringing them back in touch with a community that has provided them solace their whole lives. This is the internet doing what it was originally intended to do, bringing people into contact with like-minded people.

In the dangerous and uncertain times of the pandemic, and with no precise road to normality in sight, the rise of digital platforms presents a safe and effective way of staying connected. Simultaneously improving the church’s reach for new and existing congregants alike, online church services may well be here to stay.

Feature image: unsplash.com

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