Witnessing To Joy: Lockdown And Virtual Church

Author: Allegra Mutanda

Picture: Allegra Mutanda

Witnessing To Joy: Lockdown And Virtual Church

Allegra Mutanda explains how lockdown has provided several new evangelising opportunities in the parish where she works.

A few days into the first announcement of lockdown, I came across this poster:

Church online – Not cancelled.

Quiet time with God – Not cancelled.

Praying for the sick – Not cancelled.

Checking on a friend – Not cancelled.

Helping others – Not cancelled.

Being the Church – Now more than ever.

I loved it. Yes, our Church buildings might be physically closed but ‘ekklesia’ remains, and God is still calling us to gather as a worshipping community and go out as missionary disciples.

For my parish of St. Peter and the Winchester Martyrs, the vision of ‘bringing people closer to Christ in hope and joy’ has not changed. Instead, we have to look at how  God is calling us to live it out in these unprecedented times. 

Community And Participation

Our Virtual Church was born from this. We set up live streaming of our liturgies from the onset: daily Mass, morning and night prayer, adoration, etc. and found ways of involving parishioners in our readings and music at Sunday Mass.

This has helped us maintain a sense of community and participation in the liturgy. Our live stream figures have exceeded 31,000 views across 5 continents since lockdown, which reflects a real hunger for God.

Our Sunday Mass has been broadcast on the local radio station twice now, reaching those on the periphery. We have developed ‘PeterCares’, a phone-based support project for people in need of practical, emotional or spiritual help as well as an intercessory prayer team.

Finally, we developed an interactive Virtual Church allowing for a chat room experience where people could join us for prayer and fellowship. During Holy Week, we led a family liturgy based around the washing of feet, and our children’s way of the cross on Good Friday was led by several families in creative and fun ways using the Zoom platform.

A Missionary Outlook

We were already running Alpha before the lockdown and decided to finish the course online. This proved so successful that we are now running two new series on different nights of the week. In addition to this, we are running an online version of the CaFE DVD course, ‘The Gift’, in preparation for Pentecost and planning a family-based liturgy around this great feast.

As with any new venture, it is a process of trial and error. Our priests need to remember to turn the camera on. Technology sometimes fails. We pray for increased attendance at events. These things take creativity, perseverance, faith-and stamina.

Although it is unchartered territory for all of us, and challenging at times, what is the alternative? As a Church, we need to be present to the people God is calling us to serve.

Called To Be Witnesses

We are called to witness to the hope and joy that can only be found in Christ, even in the midst of death and turmoil. Primarily, this is about faithfulness and choosing to live out our baptismal call in this time of crisis.

If, as a parish, you are wondering what you can do, start by stepping out in faith. What is your vision? How could God be calling you to live it out today? Ask for help from those around you who have initiatives going and try.

True, this is not how we usually do Church, but perhaps God is teaching us other ways in which we can also be Church today-and tomorrow. We will get some things wrong, but we will also get some things right, if we are willing to take the risk.

Remember that God is faithful to His people and little in our hands is so much more in God’s hands. So, let us trust and be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.

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