Colchester Methodists learn to Zoom
With so many changes in all our lives since the end of February 2020, we at The Ark, Highwoods Methodist Church in Colchester, are pretty excited about how the new circumstances have brought opportunities and one project in particular to our Circuit.
The Covid-9 crisis soon showed us that, for some period ahead, we would be relying to a huge extent on technology for all communications and we realised that some would not be able to take part in church and social life as fully as they usually do, due to limited use of technology.
The Digital Divide/Increasing Digital Connectivity project
The Digital Divide/Increasing Digital Connectivity project, including Tech Champions, brought together university volunteers and people in our Methodist churches with the aim of increasing knowledge and solving problems for those in our churches who use IT very little. Their user guides can be accessed from The Ark website - see Resources > Digital Connectivity
Tomas Kasiulis, the Volunteering Manager at Essex University Students’ Union, said, “Staying in touch with friends and family is really important, but what if that requires software you’ve never used? With so much of our ‘normal’ lives now taking place online we want to make sure everyone has the skills they need – to chat, to order things they need or to do things like join a Sunday church service.”
At the start of lockdown in March most members had never heard of Zoom, although a few had used it. Very basic guides to loading and using Zoom were deemed important. We had a prototype guide and two of the churches had link persons to encourage and assist, so that a couple of weeks into the pilot, late in April, the first Zoom gathering in one of the churches was a short social meeting. There were five novice ‘Zoomers’ along with ten veterans of at least three weeks’ experience. Not having seen each other for some time by then, the pleasure and excitement was huge.
A few days later they met for a Bible Study and twenty-five people took part – usually in single figures when meeting in person.
There then followed a fundraising quiz for Christian Aid. Team members were in their homes, questions were on a shared PowerPoint presentation and involved picture and music questions by visual and audio. Of course the techy stuff was done by those one or two more used to Zoom, and with some advice from the Uni volunteers, but willingness and confidence to join had grown all round.
One of the other churches in the circuit, Wimpole Road, has successfully encouraged several members to dial in to Zoom prayer meetings and church meetings, as well as the recorded audio version of Sunday’s Facebook Live services. This church also holds a midweek Zoom café for members and the local community. Many local residents join the Facebook live service, most of whom don’t usually attend in person.
Our Methodist Circuit and the University of Essex are both members of an alliance of organisations here in Colchester, being part of Citizens UK. Citizens UK members believe that when people work together they have the power to change their neighbourhoods, towns, and ultimately the country, for the better. We work with people who want to transform the world, from what it is to what we believe it should be.