It might only be a few days since the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that normal church life would have to ‘change’ for a period of time as the coronavirus outbreak takes its course but St Swithin’s in Lincoln have been very busy embracing technology to make sure that their community can be as supportive and loving as it always has been. 

Revd Jim Prestwood, Vicar at St Swithin’s explained: “As far as is possible we want to try and operate within a ‘business as usual’ approach. We will continue to have services on Sundays, host our Alpha group, keep our youth groups running  and we will pray together – but it won’t be face to face.

“We want to make sure that everyone is supported so as well as being a collective group of congregants, we are dividing into smaller groups covering specific geographical areas around Lincoln.  This enables people who live close to one another to support each other locally, do bible study together as well as offering help to the wider community such as by helping with shopping etc 

“Setting up the technology isn’t too difficult and we are happy to talk others through what we did if that is helpful.”

The St Swithin’s technological solutions (some of these are used routinely and others have been developed specifically as a result of the coronavirus outbreak):

Videos – ideal for prerecording Sunday services. Most modern phones or iPads/laptops allow users to make videos and these can be loaded onto Facebook and played through Facebook Live or uploaded onto YouTube. You can also schedule these to appear on a particular date and time to coincide with your normal services.

Facebook – an easy way to keep in touch with your community on a regular basis. St Swithin’s hope to expand their content to provide information on practical issues such as producing cheap meals, dealing with self-isolation etc

Zoom – this is a video conferencing service so you can host FREE calls up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants. After this time you will be disconnected but you can reconvene after a period of time. Subscription services are available. St Swithin’s used this for their Alpha group with good results and they also hope to use this for a variety of contexts from PCC to lunchtime reflections people can dial into.

Instagram – share photos that showcase what the church is doing in a positive way and allows others to interact by leaving comments etc.

Insta Live – this allows users to stream video to followers and engage with them in real time. St Swithin's will be using this as well as Facebook Live for morning prayer and compline. 

Website – Develop a page on your website to keep congregations and other people up-to-date with details of how they can join in with services online. You can also add other content for eg bible study classes or resources for families with children to use after the Sunday service.

24/7 prayer room – churches can set up their own prayer room at https://www.24-7prayer.com/prayerrooms. This allows people to sign up to commit to pray at a certain date and time and St Swithin’s are hoping to generate a prayer schedule across the churches of Lincoln to cover Lincolnshire in prayer at this difficult time.

Mailchimp – a newsletter system so you can keep people up to date with online services and help and advice. There is a basic package and other subscription rates are available.

WhatsApp group – an easily downloadable free App so groups of people (up to 256) can chat to one another for free.

Dedicated email address – they have developed a [email protected] email address so people can contact the team directly. They have posted cards through every door in the parish with offers of help, a little treat and encouraging people to email if they need support.