Experiencing the Church on Zoom

By Ruth Penner and Marilyn Funk

WINNIPEG, Man.—“Mom, you’re the only one I know who likes having church on Zoom!” This comment, made by an adult son to his mother, was shared after a recent Aberdeen prayer meeting on Zoom and started a discussion about our experience of church by Zoom.

As the discussion continued, another parent was heard to have commented, “My children are much more engaged in the service on Zoom.” A senior whose eyesight is diminishing said, “This is the first time I have really seen the newer faces in the congregation.”

Many reported feeling more connected—perhaps because we are looking at each other’s faces instead of at the backs of heads of those seated in front of us? We are also thrilled that in a Zoom service this connection extends to members of our Aberdeen community from North Carolina, Minnesota, Ontario and Mexico.

When meeting in person, the coffee time after the service was always valued highly, as it gave us a chance to connect with one another. Now, at the end of the Zoom service, we invite all who wish to stay online for a virtual “coffee time.” On Zoom we all hear what each other shares rather than connecting with only a few people, as would happen during in-person services.

Some aspects of worshipping together in person are not replicated as well on Zoom. Singing is one of those things, but we have learned how to enhance it. For instance, for congregational singing, the words are shared on the screen. While we hear the musician(s) and song leader, the rest of us listen or sing along while on mute, as technology can’t correct the difference in timing if we all sing at the same time unmuted.

While most of us really enjoy worshipping by Zoom, it is only fair to acknowledge that for a few congregants who spend much of their work time on Zoom meetings or who are less comfortable with technology, the experience may not be as consistently positive.
In reflecting on why worship over Zoom has been such a positive experience for Aberdeen, it seems that being a small congregation is what makes it possible for it to work so well. With about 20 to 24 households on the screen on any Sunday, we see each other’s faces up close as we sing, share, listen to the children’s story and sermon, and more.

It seems many of us are a little reluctant to begin meeting in person. Some are hesitant due to the COVID-19 risks, some are reluctant to make the effort to get out and drive again, while others enjoy the intimacy we have developed as a church community through worshipping virtually.

We are looking forward to the time we can be together in person again. However, worshipping in a different way has brought much richness to us. We are grateful!

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