A group of Aberdeen churches are doing their bit to keep parishioners’ spirits up during the coronavirus lockdown – by live-streaming services online.
Restrictions introduced as a result of the global pandemic have left people unable to attend church on Sunday mornings as they normally would.
Now, in an effort to ensure they do not miss out, a cluster of five churches in the west of Aberdeen have joined forces to broadcast a live service each week on YouTube.
So far the services, which feature input from each of the five ministers of Cults, Peterculter, Craigiebuckler, Mannofield and Kingswells churches, have been a huge success.
More than 1,000 people tuned in to last week’s broadcast – and the most recent is well on its way to exceeding that total.
Rev Shuna Dicks, of Cults Parish Church, said the churches were helping people in isolation feel part of the church community.
She said: “We recently installed audiovisual equipment with the aim of streaming our services ordinarily. We were aiming to do that starting on Easter Sunday so it would give us a few weeks of playing about with it to see how it would work.
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
“Coronavirus pushed us into doing it a bit quicker and the response has been absolutely fantastic.
“By the time the service finished on Sunday it was sitting at more than 100 views but within a day that had gone up to nearly 600. Last week’s has been watched more than 1,000 times.”
She added: “The reach is way beyond just the congregation. There are five churches involved and we all work as a cluster, doing different events throughout the year.
“This is a way we can continue to work together, pulling in the ministers from the five churches to do a bit of the service each.
“It’s a real collaboration which has been great and it’s encouraged us to be a bit more creative.
“It’s had a really positive impact on the people who have watched. We have had emails and messages from people saying how much they appreciate being able to watch and be part of something.”
Shuna believes the streamed services are reaching far beyond the churches’ regular congregations.
And plans are already in place to branch out, with video materials for Messy Church – for children and young families – also set to be rolled out.
Shuna said: “It’s been really interesting because a number of folk who are maybe not regular churchgoers are starting to engage.
“It’s important to keep people’s spirits up and one of the things people have said is the feeling of being part of something is a great help.
“For lots of people, the time they have on a Sunday morning being part of the church community is so important to them and so much of that has been taken away.
“Our kirk centre is normally a hive of activity through the week but that’s all gone, so being able to connect with people is really valuable.
“We are still learning. Every week things will change slightly as we get used to using the technology and find new ways to get the message across. It’s been a good challenge.”
She added: “It’s not just through putting a service together. We have been having lots of meetings through Zoom and our Bible study group have been meeting that way.
“We are also setting up messy church for families and will be sending out things people can do at home.
“We are using Facebook as a way of pulling that together because it allows people to share pictures and videos with us of what they have been doing.
“It’s a great way of keeping that sense of community going with the families.”
Now the churches plan to take things even further and hope to reach out to elderly people who may not be able to get to services on a regular basis by showing the live streams in care homes.
And the videos are to continue long after the coronavirus pandemic has come to an end and life in Aberdeen has returned to some kind of normality.
Shuna said: “The intention always was to be live streaming so folk who were unable to get to church for whatever reason could feel part of things.
“One thing that can be done, and I know a couple of churches already do, is go round to the sheltered housing, set up the stream and sit with the people there. That is absolutely something we would be keen to look at in the future.
“It requires the facilities but if we can help with that we would be delighted to.”