Revd Andrew Jackson-Parr is Vicar at All Saints Church in Bracebridge. Andy said:

"So far, I have spent the largest portion of my working life within the field of IT as a lecturer and running my own company specialising in creative media (web, video and audio). My call to vocation seemed to steer me away from these gifts somewhat and whilst I have still maintained these skills with personal projects and occasional projects for different church communities, they are not the most well-used of my gifts.

"Until the recent pandemic that is!

"We now have an unprecedented situation to face which requires us to rethink what it means to be a community on the large scale but also as churches. For the time being we can not gather in one place to pray together, worship together, to be in fellowship together. But that doesn't mean we can't still connect with one another using the amazing technology available to us.

"We are a typical middle of the road parish here in Bracebridge with the majority of our congregations being in the over 60s age bracket; but there are exceptions to this and we do have a younger, fresh expression of church with our 'Praise and Bacon' Community. When thinking about how we maintain the sense of community we began with a printed version of morning prayer for each member of the community, with a list of readings for the following few months.  We committed to praying together on a Sunday morning, at the very least.

"When Lockdown began we were phoning around to check on everyone, to share news and to maintain contact. A number of people suggested we could text, email or even said “I might even take a look at this Facebook”. So we had an outpouring of requests to use technology to stay connected as a community, so that is what we do.

"Each Sunday we hold a live stream service via Facebook and YouTube, where we combine video and audio readings and prayers from members of the community along with videos of songs and hymns (ensuring that we have the correct licenses and permissions). We read Morning Prayer together via live stream, have regular songs of praise and have even co-ordinated a Bible Study lesson. We have also produced a couple of DVDs for those who may struggle with other forms of technology.

"The uptake from the current community has been amazing, with so many who are willing to try new technologies to stay connected and are enjoying doing so. There has been an unexpected outcome - the community is growing. There are members within the local area who have found our live streams and started joining us on a regular basis.  Families, separated by distance and by the current pandemic, have arranged to join together and worship with us in a way that they haven’t been able to before.

"We share resources and information with members of the community about things we find online, on TV, in print and on the radio and continue to be in regular phone contact with as many people as we can. Whilst it really isn’t the same we are maintaining something of a sense of community.

"All of this does not come without it challenges. As my main role is now not in technology the equipment I have is beginning to feel its age but we can do the best with what we have at hand. If you have a Smartphone; tablet; computer with reasonable Webcam and microphone and an internet connection you can begin to reach out to your community.  There are many software platforms available to use for free or for minimal costs.

"It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to come from your sense of calling to offer this for your communities. I think that is important - that you feel called to offer this because there are so many different opportunities available that we shouldn’t feel that we have to do anything we don’t feel called to. We are each, as individuals as well as communities, doing our best to remain faithful to God and one another and look after ourselves as well.

"Whatever you are doing I am sure that is Blessed by God.

"If I can offer any assistance or advice please drop me a line."

Revd Andy Jackson-Parr at [email protected]