'Phone Church' in the rural south

Published: 12th October 2020

The benefice of Berrow with Pendock, Eldersfield, Hollybush & Birtsmorton is in a rural area in the south of our diocese. Internet is often poor quality and intermittent and there are also a number of people who are reluctant to use computers for a range of reasons. To keep in touch during the pandemic, parishioners have been able to join worship on Zoom by telephone, alongside those joining using the internet. Nicknamed ‘Phone Church’, this has been hugely appreciated by many.

Rector Julie James said: “The joy of Phone Church is that we’ve been able to have both sorts of participants and it works! There are usually around 8 – 10 joining via phone and around double that using their internet connection. We’ve found that it’s been a very powerful experience – people really have to listen to each other. It’s also harder to mute yourself on a telephone, so we often hear people breathing. It’s meant we’ve felt very close to each other and to God.”

In the benefice there are three different online services offered – a Eucharist on Sunday morning, Morning Prayer on a Wednesday and Compline on Friday evening.

Julie continues; “People have still missed coming to church in person, but this has really helped them to stay connected. For a long time, many of these people were not leaving their house at all and they really cherished the fellowship that phone church provided. We’ve made sure we adapt everything we do so that they can feel part of the service. Because they can’t see, we explain what’s happening and also tell people what’s coming up. Individuals are invited to speak at different points, but I’ve also learnt that it’s important to not be afraid to keep periods of silence.”

After each service there’s a chance for people to catch up and each person present is encouraged to share any news – even if it’s just what they’ve seen out of the window that day! It’s also been possible to join PCC and team meetings on the telephone to ensure everyone remains involved.

“Some people have chosen to stick with the telephone rather than use their computers so that they’re not distracted by the visuals,” said Julie. “They’ve been really open to God speaking to them as they listen. It’s great that we’ve been able to be there for our whole community in this way both spiritually and through offering fellowship. Through phone church we’re reaching those on the margins and the vulnerable and we’ll definitely keep doing it.”

Page last updated: 12th October 2020 11:22 AM
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