The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 13, 2022
What does it mean to be present in a virtual age? Those of you who attended the annual meeting last Sunday heard me report on one of the vital statistics of parish life: attendance at Sunday worship. As everyone knows all-too well, the church was completely closed from mid-March until September of 2020 – the first six months of the pandemic. That September we restarted just the 11 am Sunday service, then added back the 9 am in time for Easter Day 2021, and finally in September 2021 resumed the 6 pm in the chantry. Now that we’ve been back to our full schedule of services for the past six months, overall in-person attendance is approximately half of what it was before the pandemic. The 11 am and 6 pm seem to be perking up, 9 am not so much.
At the same time, the livestream ministry that broadcasts the 11 am service continues going strong, reaching people all over the country and even beyond. Our production team, Jim and Anne Wroten, are able to determine how many screens are tuned in, but of course, what we don’t know is how many people are viewing each one of those screens. Even if only one person is at every screen (probably not the case) the number of participants in the 11 am service is larger than the eye can behold merely by scanning the pews. If the truth be known, we’ve been livestreaming the 11 am since Easter of 2019, a full year before the pandemic. But certainly the last two years have elevated the importance of this ministry. It is unquestionably a good thing that is here to stay.
Apparently, not everyone would agree. Last month a columnist for The New York Times named Tish Harrison Warren wrote an opinion piece entitled, “Churches Should Drop Their Online Services.” Conversely, other tech savvy people think the Episcopal Church ought to expand into the metaverse and make provision for people who wish to send their avatars to worship. Could church services in the metaverse actually be real thing in the very near future?
This week at the Sunday Forum Harry Krauss and I will be pondering the question, “What does it mean to be present in a virtual age?” I should add here that when we first conceived of the idea, someone quipped that it would be like Statler and Waldorf, the two cantankerous old guys in the balcony of The Muppet Show. Point well taken! Perhaps never before have two more unlikely people dared to opine about future trends and technology. Be that as it may, join us in the reception room or on Zoom at 10 am. Then at coffee hour be sure to toss yourself a game of Cincinnati Bengals corn hole in celebration of Super Bowl Sunday, and sign up for the Parish Day of Service on March 5th.
See you in church.