Bringing worship to the smartphone generation

As the year-long ChurchLive project comes to an end, we asked some of the people who got involved in ChurchLive over the past year for their highlights and reflections from the experience. Here is what they had to say:

Lee Barnes – Sanctuary Marquee (The Church Tent at Glastonbury Festival)
I chose to get involved with the ChurchLive project for the opportunity for those who are not able to go to a Worship gathering to be able to connect and to be able to let a wider community be aware of a Christian expression at Glastonbury Festival working to serve the Festival community.

As a result of this new idea we asked Michael Eavis if we may be able to access some wifi on-site so that the signal was stronger. In response he arranged to have our own wifi mast installed to the back of the Marquee.

We found it to be a blessing to have hundreds of extra people engaging in our worship from elsewhere. There was a small sense of being surrounded by a larger community of people with us in our worship at the Glastonbury Festival.

Graeme Fancourt – St Luke’s Reading
The technology is easy and cheap to set up, and didn’t present any problems during the streaming. Clearly people connected with it online, which was good. We are considering streaming our daily prayer service in a way that enables those who can’t come along in person, to join in from work or home.

Dom Jones – Saint Devorans, Truro
The reason that we got involved with ChurchLive was because I wanted to highlight the CofE in Cornwall. Us small rural churches often get over looked, but we are (I feel) the bread and butter of the CofE working hard in our little villages often with small but very faithful congregations. I thought it was important for us to be represented and I spoke to my congregations about it and they were worried that we’d only have a small number attending on Sunday morning when we went live. I said that I didn’t mind, we needed to show the reality of life in a Cornish Church that it is sometimes hard but that we are here week in week out celebrating the Eucharist and witnessing to the people in our area.

Bertrand Olivier – All Hallows by the Tower, City of London
We got involved with the project because we found it an attractive and fairly easy thing to do – yet forced us to consider the wider implications both in terms of presentation and imagining what we might look like through the lens of an iPhone.  We decided to go the extra mile in terms of offering, and involved a gospel choir to jazz things up – and it was a wonderful experience all around.

The project made us think of the importance and opportunities of live streaming in our current cyber-society, and the way in which this provides further opportunities for social media content.  As a church in the City of London, our congregation numbers vary significantly, and livestreaming will open up new avenues for some of our regular members to join us on a Sunday or Wednesday evening when they can’t travel, and for weddings, baptisms and other services to be joined from across the world.

We very much look forward to seeing how this changes our outreach and how this may shape our liturgical mission in the future.

Michael Gibson – St Andrews, Moscow
We got involved in the live broadcasting project as St Andrew’s is a church that’s keen to reach out via every channel possible. Social media has made those channels very abundant. It is crucial to be part of the social media world and to reach out to people on new and different platforms.

Using the very contemporary app Periscope we put our Sunday service right at the heart of a very contemporary Social Media phenomenon. It’s so straightforward to do that it’s easy to forget you have a complex church service to convey and many people watching in far flung corners of the globe. We suddenly found ourselves to be film makers, but in a very informal and accessible way, with great tips and guidance from ChurchLive Central. To be broadcasting live to so many people from a small mobile is an incredible opportunity. Having a live commentary with instant feedback made the experience interactive and our Sunday church service truly global – we even heard from a couple of old members of the congregation who had moved on (St Andrew’s Moscow has a very itinerant congregation).

Would we do it again? Yes absolutely.

Sam Woodward – Christ Church, Ware Hertfordshire
Having broadcast a few special services and events from Christ Church Ware, a few years ago, we were keen to support the ChurchLive project, helping people to see the variety within the Church of England.

As we approached the broadcast date we were contacted by a housebound member of our congregation sharing how excited she was about this opportunity to join in the service.

It has been interesting to see the number of viewers increase in the week which followed the live broadcast. Prior to the service we prayed about concerns from “trolling”, and are delighted to report that the interactions during the broadcast were all encouraging.

Participating in ChurchLive has been a very positive experience, from which we’ve learned many lessons, but more importantly we pray that the service broadcast enabled someone somewhere to get closer to God.

Inspired to start broadcasting at your own Church? Here are a few handy tips to get you started:

  1. Choose the right platform for you – It might be Periscope, Facebook Live or Youtube.
  2. Name your broadcast so people who stumble across it know what it is
  3. Promote it in advance so people know when to look out for it
  4. Confirm you have the right music/performer licenses to broadcast
  5. Check with your parish safeguarding officer (or vicar or churchwardens) if you’re filming children
  6. Experiment with camera set up and location to find the best place to film from and be creative

Tallie Proud
Digital Media Officer, Archbishops’ Council

A Prayer for Renewal & Reform

Renewal & Reform is an ambitious programme of work, which seeks to provide a narrative of hope to the Church of England in the 21st century. It is rooted in a sense of Biblical hope and an understanding of Christ’s call to us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into the harvest field.

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out his workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:2

Renewal & Reform aims to build on the 3 goals articulated by General Synod in 2010 to:

  • Contribute as the national church to the common good
  • Facilitate the growth of the church in numbers and depth of discipleship
  • Re-imagine the church’s ministry

In doing so it looks specifically to address some of the deep-rooted missional challenges facing the Church of England and it prayerfully hopes to see a growing church as fruit of all these labours, growth understood in its fullest sense.
Renewal & Reform seeks to build on the excellent work already taking place across the church to articulate a hopeful future for our churches and, more particularly, the communities we serve. But it doesn’t seek to duck the serious challenges we face but rather is based on a realistic assessment of where we are and how we might respond.

And one of the clear and intended outcomes of this work is to reverse the decline of the Church of England so that we become a growing church, in every region and for every generation; a church open to and for everyone in England, building up the Body of Christ and working for the common good; a confident church,equipping new generations of leaders, ordained and lay, for ministry and mission.

A Growing Church / Renewal & Reform

One of the clear and intended outcomes of this work is to reverse the decline of the Church of England so that we become a growing church, in every region and for every generation; a church open to and for everyone in England, building up the Body of Christ and working for the common good; a confident Church, equipping new generations of leaders, ordained and lay, for ministry and mission; a serving church where all God’s people live out their vocation to serve and to witness.

That is our aim. Renewal and Reform is not based on a prescription of what every church should be, nor does it represent a single Church of England strategy or describe the whole of the Church of England’s work. We need prayerfully to build on our rich inheritance: the daily and weekly rhythms of prayer, worship and proclamation; the thousands of hours of spoken and unspoken service in and to the community; the touching of lives at profound points through weddings, funerals and baptisms and sector ministries; the place for the committed and the enquirer, for people of very loud and very quiet faith; the planned and the random encounters; the evangelistic voice, proclaiming the love of Jesus in and to this generation; the prophetic voice, the continued call for justice and mercy; the assumption – and reality – that the church is still there when nobody else is willing to help.

Renewal and Reform seeks humbly and prayerfully to build on this inheritance to:

  • Grow disciples in every place who are committed to conforming their own lives to the pattern of Christ and confident in sharing their faith with others and making Christ known
  • Call more clergy and lay leaders into a wider variety of ministries
  • Re-direct money to where it is most needed and makes the most difference
  • Foster a range of creative and imaginative mission projects which both strengthen our inheritance and open up new possibilities
  • Simplify rules and procedures to support and enable rather than inhibit
  • Give renewed voice and hope to the people of God and the communities they serve


A Realistic Assessment / Renewal & Reform

As God is faithful there is nothing to fear. And so Renewal and Reform does not seek to duck the challenges and realities facing the church; we know they are serious and deep-rooted. They include:

  • A significant and continuing decline in and ageing of church attendance
  • A significant decline in the number of stipendiary clergy, which is due to accelerate in the next ten years
  • The unsustainability of certain patterns of ministry
  • The lack of capacity in at least some dioceses to envision, develop and implement strategies for a more hopeful future
  • The lack of leadership capacity in some places to respond effectively to current and future challenges
  • The legal and cultural constraints and the institutional inertias that impede necessary change

But we benefit from a common understanding that each of the above offers significant opportunities. Renewal and Reform will seek to enable and facilitate confident and hopeful engagement with these and other challenges, nurturing the good and re-imagining the unsustainable.

A Plentiful Harvest / Renewal & Reform

Renewal and Reform is rooted in an understanding of Luke 10:2:

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

God has called us afresh in our generation to be salt and light, to love our neighbours as ourselves, to have compassion on a lost and bewildered generation. We live in a time of turmoil and nothing is to be gained by denying uncomfortable truths. But God is faithful and therefore ours is also a time of hope. Christ calls us to pray in hope that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers into his harvest field.

The Bible tells of the surprising work of God in calling the most unexpected people. As the church now seeks to nurture new generations of leaders we too will need to look in unexpected places. We may need to focus on the fringes where people are finding faith, meeting Jesus and committing themselves to the work of the Kingdom. And we will need to go beyond the fringes to reach out and listen carefully to those who have not even thought of Jesus, confident that as we plant and water seeds God will give the growth.

Renewal and Reform offers a message of hope through changed lives and transformed communities as people of faith and people finding faith also discover their vocation to love God and serve others. This loving service will find voice and expression in myriad ways but will be underpinned by justice, mercy and a humble walk with God.

A Hopeful Future / Renewal & Reform

By building on, challenging and supplementing the excellent work that is already taking place across the parishes, dioceses and in the National Church Institutions it is hoped that Renewal and Reform will help enable the church to move to a place where:

  • Followers of Jesus are faithful witnesses to the transforming love of God in word and action
  • Churches are equipped to make and sustain disciples across all generations
  • Churches, chaplaincies and fresh expressions are able to have the ministry and leadership they need
  • Dioceses have senior leadership which is more representative and better equipped for God’s mission
  • The whole church can confidently communicate our faith in a digital age
  • The whole church is focussing greater energy on our participation in God’s mission

And through all of this that more and more people may come to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.