If you’ve been trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in your spiritual life, you’re probably now a pro at using Zoom. When we’re relying upon Zoom church services to stay somewhat connected, you cannot help but learn the ropes. Maybe even change the virtual background for your talking head on the screen.
For many, this has been a difficult transition. Even if you’re not directly in a Zoom church service, you’re likely still watching worship from home, on YouTube on elsewhere. You’re wanting to listen and go through the motions you’re used to in person.
Here’s the thing I feel compelled to discuss: regardless of your opinions on it, Zoom church services are all we have. There’s no attending a worship space. And even if you are, then you cannot sing, or touch others, or stand closely, or go through the normal rituals as you once knew them. If places of worship want to stay afloat, they’ve been forced to adapt.
These changes don’t go unnoticed, and we should get used to them. Zoom church services are the new norm. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So, how can we best utilize them? How can we uplift spirituality in times we most need it?
In my own experience, I’ve been supporting a church community as they navigate Zoom church services. I’m essentially the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, making sure the technology runs smoothly. This insider’s glimpse into worship has truly opened my eyes to all the good and all the bad.
Let’s start on a positive note. Zoom church services allow expansive accessibility that in-person worship could never touch. Anybody privileged enough with a device and wifi can log into a meeting from anywhere in the world. They can now connect to once-unattainable spiritual resources and communities, breathing fresh life into potentially stale worship.
To keep people around, spiritual spaces are now forced to go beyond stale. The old song and dance don’t work like the once did. Now we have new tools to play around with. I’ve helped my church bring in new speakers and share videos and content, all of which wasn’t possible in a chapel. Congregants get the best seats, right in their own homes.
As an autistic person, all of the buzz around Zoom church services invigorates me. It’s a call for greater diversity in spiritual leadership that can uplift this technology and keep the faith alive. That’s not something taught in seminary. Fresh faces and new insights become our greatest hopes, and I’ll bet you they’re getting creative and innovative.
As much as I’m biased toward Zoom church services, I understand why many don’t resonate with them. Just as in-person worship doesn’t work for everybody, so doesn’t live-streaming.
When everything else under the sun has become scheduled Zoom meetings, you’re left longing for something different, or at least a break from the “Zoom fatigue.” Online worship sounds like just another meeting to check off the list rather than a space for spiritual grounding.
Not everybody likes change. Most people don’t. It feels off to sing to yourself while every other attendee is muted for a hymn. You lose the sense energy radiating from a gathered congregation, together for spiritual growth. Everything feels less real, less potent.
Plus, while the accessibility of Zoom church services surpasses geography and time zones, you’re leaving out entire populations who don’t have a computer or smart phone. Those who needed a place to stay for the night can’t do so if the church door’s locked. We must acknowledge that this conversation itself is a luxury.
what do we do now?
If Zoom church services stick around (which they certainly will), how can we best support them? Make them more meaningful and impactful?
First, we need diverse voices. This rings true for every facet of society, but especially in spiritual leadership. Ministers used to the pulpit may be struggling with this upheaval, but many other ministers have found a whole new sense of purpose. I include myself here in saying that, as an autistic person, a ministry that has less focus on performance and more on words and intention better suits my strengths. This new setting has the potential for new voices to really shine, so let’s let them.
As I mentioned already, Zoom church services come with new possibilities to integrate new facets and ideas to worship. Screen share a YouTube video. Let congregants play bigger roles now that we’re all on the same level (at least on the screen). Bring in people from anywhere on the globe to engage. All of this and more are possible. Spiritual leaders just need to willingly and curiously explore the opportunities.
Finally, know your limitations. When singing, you probably won’t hear other voices. Trying to say hi and talk to other people when there’s more than four people in a meeting turns into chaotic chatter. There’s a new etiquette to learn on video, and may not carry the same connectedness than in-person interaction does. Do your best with what you’re comfortable with, also accepting that potential discomfort in a changing routine leads to growth in every way.
what’s most important.
We’re living through a global pandemic. Grief, anxiety, stress, and every emotion in between has risen to the surface. Many of us feel insecure, vulnerable, and downright scared. For good reason, might I add.
Zoom church services might not “hit the spot” like an in-person faith gathering does, but it’s all we really have right now. Even as some places try to open up, hasty decisions become deadly. If anything, Zoom church services have become a new tether keeping us steady over every passing week as we navigate our ever-changing landscape.
Authentic spirituality remains resilient amid uncertainty. Our call to stay connected with one another and God in new ways proves that. We’ve already made it through this far…stay hopeful. Believe in the good. Even if Zoom is all you have, know that what feels flimsy is a strong container for you to persist, for all of us to unite.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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