Covid-19: churches go online


With all church buildings closed due to the Covid-19 crisis (apart from essential social outreach such as foodbanks, soup kitchens and night shelters), churches of all traditions are quickly moving online.

The main denominations are approaching the government’s request for church closures in different ways.

  • The Church of England insists that live-streaming is done from church leaders’ homes and not from churches. Not all church leaders are happy about this. For an interactive map of Anglican live-streamed and online engagement around the country, click here. Training via webinars is available here and Zoom training is here. 
  • For those looking for guidance on online engagement solutions or support, the Covid Churches Handbook is an outstanding and comprehensive online resource put together by a group of church communications professionals. It is a growing crowdsourced index for church leaders, communications teams and church staff of all traditions to refer to during the coronavirus outbreak, and includes advice and resources on everything for running a church during the Covid-19 crisis, from live-streaming and digital tools, to church management, outreach, and mental health advice.

Online Church – some examples

Below we’ve assembled a list of examples of churches from different traditions who are adapting to the new reality.

Live-streaming is exploding with creativity and vast numbers of services and other events are being held via platforms such as ZoomFacebookLive for Churches, The common hashtag is #WithYouInSpirit

Despite the distress about churches being locked, many find the shift online to be a blessing in unexpected ways. We hope you find this encouraging.

  • Revd Al Barrett is running a simple form of daily prayer twice a day, and sharing a weekly ‘worship pack’ for people to use at home, offering delivery of hard copies to people’s homes if they request it. Liturgy, readings and reflections are shared via their church Facebook group or by email.
  • Student Cross – the week-long cross-carrying Easter pilgrimage for all ages is moving online this year. With an online liturgy streamed daily at 12 noon during Holy Week, they are also holding online stations of the cross four times a day – anyone can join.
  • Fr. Giuseppe Corbari from a parish close to Milan asked his parishioners to email him photos of themselves, which he printed and stuck on the pews so he can remember each of them when celebrating Mass alone in the locked church.
  • More than 60 Catholic parishes in London are live-streaming Masses are listed here.
  • The monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, well known for their Gregorian chant tradition, are live-streaming masses every day from their chapel in the woods outside Vienna.
  • Pope Francis broadcast his Urbi et Orbi (‘to the City and the World’) address from St Peter’s Square. For the full text, click here and it is available on YouTube.
  • The Church of Scotland has a list of Kirk services online here.
  • Instead of its usual Sunday ‘gatherings’, St Thomas’ Norwich (part of the HTB family) is providing resources to support worshipping at home: ‘House’, with talks, online chat, videos, live streams and a weekly guide.
  • While its pilgrimage activities are shut down, the national Catholic shrine in Walsingham is running a comprehensive 24/7 live streaming schedule. With three masses a day, the online diary includes talks, readings, exposition, Benediction, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Rosary, Compline and meditation. During its historic celebration for the Dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary on 29 March, the site crashed due to the numbers trying to access the site.
  • Revd Marcus Walker, vicar of St Bartholomew the Great in the city of London is offering broadcasts including virtual Evensongs and Eucharists with a reduced choir. 
  • Rowheath Pavilion Church, a church based in a sports pavilion near Birmingham, is reaching out to its community with services held online via Facebook Live and has seen a huge surge in attendance.
  • Alone Together is an online guide to isolation and social distancing from ‘those who know’ – monks, nuns and others. With a collection of videos and other resources, it was curated in response to the Coronavirus pandemic by CTVC.
  • On Easter day, Mass will be said by Cardinal Vincent Nichols at 8am and broadcast via the BBC’s 39 local radio stations. Meanwhile, Archbishop Justin Welby will lead a service at 8.10am on BBC Radio 4, also livestreamed via the C of E’s Facebook page. On 3 April, Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop Welby and Chief Rabbi Mirvis broadcast a video conversation on YouTube.

In this twenty minute conversation, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Justin Welby and Chief Rabbi Mirvis chat about the radical changes brought by the Covid-19 crisis. They see that it is prompting us to reconfigure what we mean by community, and they see that with closure of places of worship has brought unexpected benefits – that every one of our homes now needs to become a House of God. 

This article is from our 2020 Easter newsletter

Picture courtesy of Cormac Corcoran