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Online worship not a wholesale substitute for face-to-face gatherings during the pandemic, new report reveals

by Kelly Valencia
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A new report has revealed online worship was not a wholesale substitute for face-to-face gatherings during the pandemic. 

The Zoomed Out study by evangelism charity Church Army explored the online church experiences of more than 600 Anglicans over a six months period. 

The majority of the respondents said their experiences of Holy Communion, corporate prayer and corporate worship had worsened during online church.

"Online can't do everything. About eight out of ten people said that their experience of taking communion when they're online was worse, or much worse than it had been previously," Dave Lovell, lead researcher on the project, told Premier. 

"In practice, what that means is if you had a Holy Communion service, you can't just take that and live stream and think: 'Oh, that'll be the same thing. People will people will engage it the same way'," he continued. 

The study also confirmed how the oldest and the poorest were often the least well-equipped to engage online and warned that the return to the church building threatens to exclude those worshippers who are still shielding from Covid-19.

Church Army is recommending online practices are used to supplement rather than substitute church life. 

Lovell continued: "[Online Church] has been such a prominent part of our lives. But it's not just a part of our past. It's in some ways a part of our future, so we really wanted to release a report that was going to equip the Church to reflect on what good practice might look like, going ahead."

"The point of this research is to equip you rather than to predict," Lovell said. "Think critically about the kind of online practice you adopt, particularly live streams, we found it's very important to see one another's faces during a live stream event and think very carefully about who's included and who's excluded."

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