Synchronous Hybrid Virtual Worship
Covid-19 restrictions saw worship leaders & Ministers embark on a steep learning curve to provide online worship experiences. Over time, skills were honed and technologies tweaked. Now, as restrictions begin to ease, the real opportunity is before us, and it requires greater commitment and nuanced skills. Some will be able to gather in church buildings, adhering to guidelines, however many still cannot. Those who are in vulnerable categories, or those who’ve connected since church went online, or simply those who cannot fit within restriction allowances. How we we minister to a mixed-modal congregation, and how might we maintain new digital relationships forged during these strange times?
We chatted with Rev Phil Swain about how Turramurra Uniting Church has developed their hybrid model.
You might also enjoy this case study article about Floris United Methodist Church in the US.
Synchronous Hybrid Virtual Worship is a phrase we made up, but it points to a commitment and understanding that we can still gather as the people of God, overcoming physical and digital divides.
Synchronous simply highlights that this is a live experience. During lockdown, we have explored playlists, DIY Worship and distributed resources. These may still form part of our discipleship strategy, however they are asynchronous. This is ‘real-time.’
Hybrid refers to the mixed contexts from which people are gathering. Some will fill the pews, others will connect virtually. Significantly, they may do so as family, or individually, and from diverse geographical & socio-economic contexts.
Virtual reminds us that this experience is being relayed using technology and the Internet, and that real people exist at either end of the connection.
Worship, in this circumstance, refers to the gathered community, joining together for teaching, sacrament and celebration.
This current time presents new opportunities. There is limited study in the areas of synchronous hybrid virtual education, and no work considering how this might shape worship gatherings. That said, below are some considerations and strategies we think might provide helpful starting points for your planning.
- All are welcome. How will you ensure physical & virtual attendees can participate, contribute and belong? Video & audio connections between the service leaders and the attendees are obvious necessities.
- Eye contact. How will physical & virtual attendees see each other? Can you provide a screen and camera? Can those in church also connect virtually? Zoom/etc allowed everyone to be seen (well, at least 25 people) – how will that be continued?
- Participation. Digital platforms and pre-recorded content allowed a greater diversity of participation in our worship gatherings. How might this be maintained?
- Intimacy. Consider the view from the virtual attendees. Which of these views would help you connect?
Worship leaders and Ministers undertook significant learning curves in March/April. it’s important to remember that congregants did also. So let’s not shy away from engaging their new-found skills and flexibility. If a video camera in the aisle allows people a richer experience as they join from home, how would begrudge that? If a member s required to assist with the presentation simulcast over Zoom, who might be willing to help?
In the coming weeks, we hope to provide more insights regarding skills for preachers, suggestions for technical equipment, and strategies for pastoral care and community development. These will be uploaded at www.ucayouth.org.au. In the interim, we would love to hear from you regarding your experiences. Get in touch via bradon.french<at>victas.uca.org.au