One of my favorite parts of serving you in the synod is the chance to see God at work in so many different congregations in so many different ways. We have about 650 churches, which means the Holy Spirit is at work in at least 650 distinctly thrilling ways in our denomination throughout Michigan and Ohio (and a bit of Indiana and Kentucky). I want to tell you about two churches that I recently visited in particular.
In mid-May, I preached at West Berlin Presbyterian Church (Home (westberlinpc.info) close to Delaware, Ohio (Scioto Valley Presbytery). This historic congregation has shown great innovation in how it connects with its worshipers and helps those joining by Zoom to feel a part of the gathered body. By email, each member receives a copy of the week’s bulletin with copies of the hymns and the Zoom link. When folks join through Zoom, an online greeter welcomes them by name, checks in with them, and connects them with others joining virtually.
A large screen TV is set up in the modestly-sized sanctuary so that in-person worshipers accept Zoom attendees to be a part of a greater body. On Zoom, attendees can decide if they want to watch the close-up camera on the pulpit or watch the camera facing the pews so that they can see their friends, or watch the view of the full chancel area. Regularly a Zoom attendee will be the liturgist for the service. Those on Zoom and those in person together offer announcements and prayer requests at that time of the service.
All of this takes five computers on a Sunday morning, but it pays off. The day I was there, 27 people attended in person and 17 on Zoom. One congregation, growing together, due to the thoughtful way the congregation is using technology to draw people to each other for worship, rather than simply broadcasting the service as if it were a TV show.
Next I attended Northbrook Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills, Michigan (a middle-sized church in Detroit Presbytery). Most of us probably agree that announcements are the bane of worshipers’ (and preachers’) existence. Here, though, the pastor used the announcements to ask for worshipers’ feedback on what highlight of the worship service should be shown on the church’s social media platforms to help outsiders learn who they are and how they follow Christ. People were enthusiastic in their answers! (You can see what they’ve chosen recently by visiting their Facebook page at (1) Northbrook Presbyterian Church-Beverly Hills, MI | Beverly Hills MI | Facebook.)
I loved how it gave the worshipers a chance to articulate when they felt God’s presence most, and a chance for people who might want to learn more about the Gospel or this congregation an easy way to learn. It is exciting to see how this might break down walls between the church and the world, one of the goals toward which Northbrook moves.
I wonder how your congregation might more fully integrate the virtual and physical attendees in worship, and how you might creatively spread the Word of God’s work in your midst?
Your partner in ministry,
Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD Executive firstname.lastname@example.org phone number 309-530-4578