Staying Connected During the Coronavirus
There have been so many wonderful ideas around how to stay connected during this time, we have endeavored to compile the most useful of them here. Have an idea to share? Send it to [email protected].
BUILDING COMMUNITY ONLINE
As many consider turning to technology to help keep us together, whether it be livestreaming worship, connecting via video chats or meetings, there are some terrific resources available to help get you started:
- Building Community Online (eFormation - VTS)
One of the most popular methods being put in place is the use of livestreaming. It is "virtual" worship, allowing those who usually come together in a worship space to do so online instead. Two of the more popular channels being put into use are Facebook Live and Zoom.
- Facebook Live - For those whose churches already have a Facebook page, this is a great way to livestream. Benefits include no cost, interactivity (via comments, likes, etc.) and the ability to record and have a shareable video file (videos can be downloaded from Facebook and shared via other communications channels like email). To go live (from your phone):
- Open your Facebook page.
- Click "Create a post"
- Look at the options below the post box (where you would type your post) - select "Go Live"
- Add a description.
- Go live!
- Hint: It's a great idea to post an announcement that you will be livestreaming so your audience knows when to look for it.
- Zoom - For smaller online gathering, Zoom allows you to set up as a meeting. With a basic level that comes at no cost, it allows for all participants to interact. Just set up the meeting and share the link; all who wish to attend just click the link, and their computers will do the rest. Shared experience: anything spoken or sung in unison may not be flawless, as the attendees' internet speed and connectivity will play a role. Also note: recording options are not available on free accounts, and the gatherings are limited to 40 minutes.
- Though most churches have licenses allowing them to use music and other materials during worship, licensing and livestreaming is still working out some details. However, ONE LICENSE is making it easy during this trying time, offering churches a podcast/streaming license free of charge through April 15.
- It goes without saying that if you are planning to livestream services, you will inform your congregation via your usual methods. But use this as an opportunity to invite the community in as well. The Diocese has created social media artwork for you to use in letting the world know you are livestreaming - simply include your specific information in the post. You can access the social media graphics in the Dropbox of resources we have created for your use. To reach beyond your audience, consider boosting your posts; bringing in new worshipers online may just find them visiting in person when the coronavirus crisis has passed.
- Update your Episcopal Asset Map listing. If anyone comes to the diocesan website to find churches that might be livestreaming, they will be directed to our "Find a Church" tool - aka the Episcopal Asset Map. By typing in "livestream" or "livestreaming" (as an example) into the keyword search box, every church with these keywords in their main description will come up as a search result.
CONFERENCE CALLS & VIDEO CHATS
Two popular platforms used for video conferencing are Zoom and Google Hangouts. Both offer free entry points, and both allow for both one-on-one conversation and group gatherings.
- Zoom - As shared above, for smaller online gathering, Zoom allows you to set up as a meeting. With a basic level that comes at no cost, it allows for all participants to interact. Just set up the meeting and share the link; all who wish to attend just click the link, and their computers will do the rest. Note: recording options are not available on free accounts, and gatherings are limited to 40 minutes.
- Google Hangouts - Google Hangouts are another great way to stay connected, allowing for one-on-one conversation or small group gatherings.
- Suggested uses (not even close to a complete list!):
- Pastoral calls
- Social calls
- Bible studies
- Sunday school
- Church staff meetings
RECORD AND POST
If livestreaming isn't going to work for your audience, consider recording your service, sermon, prayers or messages and posting them on your website and social media channels. It doesn't have to be interactive to be impactful.
PHONE TREES / CALLING BUDDIES
One of the areas of greatest concerns is our neighbors who are vulnerable, either because of a physical or emotional need, or because they are in the at-risk group who are cautioned to avoid crowds right now. A good old-fashioned phone call is a great way to check in with community members who need to know they are not forgotten. Create a list of those who could use the connection and enlist the help of parishioners or church leaders to check make the calls on a regular (even daily) basis.
ERRAND SUPPORT TEAMS
Another concern for those who may not be advised (or are unable) to frequent public areas right now is the simple act of running errands. Consider creating "buddy teams" between parishioners who could use a hand and can lend a hand with running errands to ensure supply levels don't become a source of stress.
NOTES ARE NOTABLE
There's something lovely about receiving a note in the mail, knowing someone took the time to write it, address it and put a stamp on it. Technology is wonderful, but sometimes old school can bring an even bigger smile.
THE QUIET CONNECTION
"One of the beautiful things about the Book of Common Prayer is that it allows us always to be together in common prayer and common worship even if we can't be together physically. It opens up another 'virtual' option in which community leaders can designate specific times during which people can open their Prayer Books at home or wherever they are and know that others in their congregation are doing the very same thing and praying the very same words right along with them at that particular time." (Kirk Royal, Good Shepherd, Raleigh) Lovely, no? As a bonus activity, suggest keeping a journal of thoughts during these reading times to share when we are able to gather together again.