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Norfolk churches switch to digital – and plan to continue

Norfolk churches went digital in a very big way over the Covid-19 lockdown and most of them plan to continue that way into the future, a survey by Network Norfolk has revealed.

Keith Morris reports in the second of Network Norwich & Norfolk's series of articles.

Among the almost 90 churches which responded to our survey, an impressive 92% said that they had been doing church digitally in some way at least during the 15-week pandemic lockdown.  

The responses from right across denominational and other church groupings revealed that Zoom and other live-streaming video meetings were the most popular digital format – used by 71% of churches.  

Some 54% reported placing recorded services on YouTube or Facebook and 28% said they did live-streaming on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook Live.  

Other ways of keeping in touch with church members and meeting their spiritual needs included telephone conference or individual calls used by 24% of churches with drive-through prayer and car park services starting to emerge when lockdown started to ease.  

Only 8% of churches said that they did not do church digitally during the three-month lockdown period. 

Bowthorpe Worship Centre, which cannot meet because a foodbank is currently occupying its premises, said they have used Zoom, recorded services on YouTube or Facebook and telephone calls. One small Norfolk house church said: “We now meet as usual in our own homes but nobody else comes. We visit during the week, sneak in with a guitar, socially distance in gardens, and quietly worship together."

The pandemic has also changed what the church across Norfolk will look like well into the future with over three-quarters (76%) of churches planning to continue doing church digitally even when they do return to public services.  

Almost 85% of the churches which have been doing church digitally say they will continue online in some form – for many a hybrid of a smaller service and live streaming as well.  

Rev Matthew Price, from St Mary’s Gorleston, said: “We are resuming our Sunday morning service but will also continue to broadcast on Zoom and on Facebook Live. We are really aware that for some people they do not feel ready to come out of their homes yet and we want to continue to provide access to church for them for the foreseeable future.  

“Church is going to feel different for the next wee while but I am really excited about the opportunity to gather back together again at the heart of our community in our wonderful building.”  

Last week: How Norfolk churches are planning to re-open for public worship.

Next week: How Norfolk churches responded with social action projects during lockdown.  

Pictured above Rev Matthew Price, from St Mary’s Gorleston, ready to resume public worship but also continuing to do church online.

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