Presbyterian Church(U.S.A) has observed benefits and enhancement of their ecclesial health through virtual worship services, according to Presbyterian mission.
In a conference call via Zoom with 50 participants Wednesday, Bryce Wiebe, director of Special Offerings, discussed with Vital Congregations about ecclesial health, which they define as "whether our mission, vision and values match up with the ways we live together."
It requires evaluating, "Whether our building provides access and service to people, does the way we worship reflect who we are and is it in alignment with who we are and who we profess God to be?"
With active discussion and evaluation, vital congregations was asked what new rituals are emerging during this crisis of COVID-19 pandemic.
One participant said, "A new habit is to focus on the needs of our communities where so many are out of work and can't feed their families, rather than (focusing) simply on ourselves."
Another person mentioned about new cultures of people greeting each other online before and after the online service. Congregations were given a guided question to discuss, such as "What signs of resurrection have you been seeing", which enhanced the meaningful fellowship of believers as a community.
Rev. Carlton Johnson of Vital Congregation pointed out another advantage of virtual worship: "Most of the time during worship we were looking at the back of someone's head, however, we can look at faces of 50 people in this setting."
Wiebe also shared that he's recently see more parents getting involved in faith formation with their children nowadays. One participant agreed, "There is a lot more empowerment of families experiencing faith formation together in their homes than there was before," "Recorded worship is allowing for people to worship when they are available rather than either go on Sunday or not at all," He added.
Another pastor also reported more frequencies of church members participation for the services. "Many people are watching 3-5 services each week," "I am encouraged by the number of people listening and spending hours in more worship services," He shared.
Wiebe who came to his job in 2015 with a background in Christian education and justice advocacy, said when he's been asked to preach online, "I've tried to embrace the intimacy of it by trying to be as close and communicative as possible." It may be counter-intuitive, but online worship "does allow us to be close," he said
"Online church seems to be challenging the leaders and members of our denomination who may have claimed that 'church' isn't 'church' unless it is gathering in person," a pastor said. "Being able to reach more people seems to be encouraging a form of outreach which may have been scoffed at by many in our denomination just a couple of weeks ago."
Presbyterianmission noted that Vital Congregations webinars on the Seven Marks of Vital Congregations are being held at 3 p.m. Eastern time each Wednesday through May 6.