Hundreds of Sydney Anglican congregations have held church services via livestream or videoconference for the second week in a row, on a special day of prayer for the effects of the coronavirus.
Archbishop Davies circulated a video calling for prayer at 1900 hours, 7pm, a reminder from COVID-19.
By now, livestreaming techniques are being refined and technology bugs ironed out although, as one Pastor told sydneyanglicans.net "We’re all building the plane while flying it!"
Larger churches streamed via either by Facebook or You Tube, while some other churches used interactive elements through video conference on platforms such as Zoom.
"In our small church, with one minister, we have never live-streamed or video recorded before," said the rector of Hornsby Heights, Mike Begbie(pictured above). "We've chosen not to stream anything live or spend any money on new equipment. We've set up a little recording space in our church, I'm recording the video on my iPhone with a borrowed tripod and recording sound through the sound desk as per normal. " he said.
When the You Tube video goes out, congregation members are sent a service plan with links to youtube songs people can sing along with.
"Some people are gathering on zoom. Some are just doing it on their own. Feedback has been very encouraging," he said. "We're also working hard to connect daily over the phone with the church and equipping them to connect with each other."
Even the larger churches managed interaction, with a mammoth effort by St Barnabas, Broadway to use the zoom software. "Across three services and a few smaller meetings, we had almost eleven hundred participants on Zoom, with about eighty breakout sessions." said Barney's Rector, Mike Paget.
Other churches are finding novel ways to connect.
At Kirribilli and Neutral Bay churches, the evening congregation had dinner via zoom after church. "We gave people 10 mins after the service to heat up food, then we brought everyone together to say grace," said Assistant Minister Andrew West from Church by the Bridge. "Then I assigned people into breakout rooms, which I called ‘tables’ for 10 mins. We did that twice (with different people each time). It was a really encouraging time of fellowship."
While the livestreaming is slowly being mastered, churches ministry of caring for their communities is proving more difficult in the constraints of COVID-related measures. Anglicare is still operating mobile pantries at many parishes, and hampers are being prepared for distribution to those who need help now more than ever.
At St Andrew's Cathedral, a stripped back choir, prayers and a sermon from the Dean Kanishka Raffel is going out weekly.
"As we gather in this online way today there are a tremendous number of people who are feeling stressed and uncertain about the week just gone and what lies ahead," the Dean said. " Senior members of our community are virtually in lockdown and unable to leave their homes. Many people this week lost their job and income, many have closed small businesses, almost all school children are at home and in many cases their parents are trying to work as well as supervise their children. The stresses are tremendous and we are possibly only at the beginning of a long effort to contain the spread of the coronovirus in our community. "
Dean Raffel spoke on the Good Shepherd from John 10.
"Australians I think have an ambiguous relationship with leaders. We care about leadership - the absence of leadership is not freedom but anarchy - but we’re skeptical of leaders and we are rarely satisfied. We want someone to lead, we’re just not much into following. When Jesus finished speaking, John tells us, his hearers were divided. Some wanted to hear him again, others dismissed him."
"This pandemic, by God’s grace will pass. When it’s over we’ll reflect on its lessons. One of them will surely be that the best of human leaders are only human at best. Jesus is the leader we have to have - the good shepherd who knows his sheep and lays down his life so that we may have life to the full."
(Full video sermon here)