Congregations growing as thousands attend church online
PUBLISHED: 14:00 05 May 2020
Some Suffolk churches have seen a 300% increase in those attending Sunday services during lockdown – with people tuning in online for worship.
Dozens of churches across the Diocese of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury are now livestreaming, with more than 130 of Sunday and weekday worship services on the internet as well as other activities for all ages.
Congregations were forced to think innovatively after being told to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rev Amy Key, of St Augustine’s Church in Ipswich, has been providing daily short services via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and the church’s website. Sunday services have been streamed live on Facebook and then posted on YouTube.
She said: “Our typical Sunday main service in church would have a congregation of between 175 and 200 people. For the first six weeks of our live streamed services, our average number of views was nearly 800.
“It’s really encouraging to know that we are reaching beyond our known St Augustine’s Church community.
“It’s fantastic to have engagement in terms of comments and shares from people who haven’t had any contact with the church before.”
She added: “We are providing a message of hope in what is quite a bleak situation.
“We know that there are people we can reach in this digital form that we can’t in the same format before.
“We have had 22 people sign up to our Alpha course online which is really exciting avenue.”
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Many of the church’s online offerings incorporate children’s activities and messy play, coffee and chat as well as worship, singing and Bible study.
Rev Canon Julia Lall, rector of South Hartismere Benefice, believes the increase in people watching the services is down to flexibility.
She said: “For a lot of people who don’t normally come to church, it’s the fact that they can access it in a way that suits them.
“When I stream a Sunday service of worship and prayer, I normally get 20 to 30 people who view it at that time but then the numbers hit more than 100 throughout the day as they can watch it when they like.
“People are also very anxious at the moment. They want comfort and that presence of knowing someone is there.”
Plans are now afoot to continue reaching new audiences with the online services when lockdown ends.
The Bishops have also been online – filming six morning prayers a week which achieve an average reach of 1,329 people.
To find details of the live streamed services, visit www.cofesuffolk.org/bishops/broadcasting-live-services
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