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Online services foster sense of community

Monday 30 March 2020 8:25pm

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With traditional church services suspended during the Covid-19 lockdown, Theology Programme academic Dr Katie Marcar is turning to technology to help people observe their faith and foster a sense of community.

Dr Marcar, a Teaching Fellow in Biblical Languages, will hold nightly Evening Service prayer sessions at 8pm to provide people with a “time for the meditative reading of Christian Scripture, prayer and silence.”

“During the lockdown everyone will be staying at home and with traditional services suspended this new reality is a time of anxiety for many people, especially those who face isolation, loneliness and fear. During this time, we join together to pray for the good of our communities and to entrust ourselves, and our world, to the love of God.”

While the lockdown has caused her to develop “completely new routines for daily life”, Evening Prayer has helped establish new daily routines and support mechanisms. It has also helped set a boundary between “work life” and “home life”, which “could be blurred beyond recognition.”

“Evening Prayer is a way to mark the transition from day to night, from activity to restfulness. I’ve now been saying Evening Prayer online for a few days and have already found that having this fixed point of time anchors my day in a way I didn’t expect. Knowing that I’ll be praying at 8pm has subtly affected the way I think about my time and helps me to stay organised, calm and thankful.”

Those joining are usually a combination of University staff, students, and members of the community. Dr Marcar joins the Zoom meeting shortly before 8pm to chat with the “congregation”.

“We talk about how our day has gone and what it’s like living in lockdown. It’s nice to see familiar faces and hear how others are doing.”

To date, Christians—mostly Anglican and Presbyterian—have been joining, but anyone from any denomination, and those who are not members of a faith-based community, are most welcome.

“People are welcome to join on any night they would like to, whether it be for one time or for the whole duration. The Church has always been a place for Christians to come together as a community. However, during the lockdown, the church has to explore new ways of being a community, and saying Evening Prayer together online is one creative way to do this.”

The service format follows the Church of England’s liturgy for Evening Prayer. The service lasts 20 to 30 minutes, and is composed of various Scripture readings, responses and prayers. Towards the end of the service there is a time for anyone to pray spontaneously.

Join the service online:

Daily Evening Prayer meets every night of the lockdown at 8pm. Join from PC, Mac, iOS or Android here.

The liturgy for Evening Prayer can be found here. : https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer