Church congregations rising during lockdown
Church “congregations” across the Harborough area have seen significant increases since church buildings were closed due to the corona virus pandemic. People are tuning in to services streamed through the internet and accessing on-line resources for prayer and teaching in greater numbers than normally attend regular Sunday worship. This follows what is said to be a national trend.
Among the most spectacular rises is that seen by the Living Rock Church which has seen its YouTube monthly unique viewers (discounting people who watch more than once) increase to 12,446, a growth of 803%. Its normal Sunday attendance at services across several locations is about 400.
Harborough Methodist Church is releasing weekly YouTube videos which attract up to 450 views of which about half are “unique”. Their total membership across three churches is about 175.
“I know of some friends in the local community who don’t come to church have been watching,” says Methodist Minister Andy Murphy. He adds that some people from Hinkley, Durham and Australia have also tuned in as well, “who wouldn’t normally be at our services!”
Other churches report similar responses. Harborough Community Church has seen double its normal congregation tuning in to its online Sunday worship and preaching slot. The Congregational Church has also seen a similar doubling for its weekly audio service. Harborough Baptist Church has seen its website resources accessed by up to 400 unique users each week, up from 50.
The town’s Church of England and Roman Catholic churches have taken a different approach, directing people to the many online services already available. These include mainstream media broadcasts such as the BBC’s Sunday Worship, together with diocesan and national offerings.
“Our folks are following Mass from churches across the country,” says Father Owen O’Neill of Our Lady of Victories Church, which also offers a weekly reflective newsletter on its website. “Many are able to tune into the church they were christened at, or attended as a family in their younger days. It’s amazing how they’ve taken to technology. One wonders if it’s going to be the church of the future.”
However, Anglican Team Rector Barry Hill sounds a cautionary note. The team use the video conferencing facility Zoom for a weekly live service which enables participants to see and talk to each other. Up to 100 screens with about 150 people take part on Sundays, which is fewer than the combined Sunday congregations across five churches. Youth and other church groups have their own Zoom meetings, and a variety of links to other resources are on the Team’s website.
“I’m mindful that we know of 96 households from our churches who aren’t on the internet,” Barry Hill says. “So some of the team have put together and posted use-at-home services for use during the day. And generally we’ve seen quite a large increase in the amount of community engagement with others in the town,” he adds.
Links to all the church websites can be found by clicking the “Town Churches” tab on this website.