Do online services create a two-tier church of those who can and cannot join in? Or can they ensure everyone is included – at last? A challenge from Lawrence Moore
It’s time to look to life beyond lockdown and begin to think strategically about what the Church that emerges out of this ‘new normal’ will look like. How will the lessons that we’ve learned during this period usefully shape Church as we move back into our buildings (whenever that will be)? That needs to happen, but whatever we do, we need to ensure that we don’t simply go back to church life before the pandemic.
Lockdown has removed the distinction between ‘online church’ (a distinctively different way of doing church that is suitable for the online environment) and ‘church online’ (moving our normal activities online). During lockdown, church life online has been the only game in town.
As a result, time and again, I’m hearing people express the same worry: ‘Aren’t we in danger of creating a two-tier church – those who can share in Zoom services, coffee mornings, Bible studies etc, and those who can’t get online? Where will that second group be, coming out of lockdown?’ It’s an admirable concern. And it’s an important question: how are we resourcing and including people who haven’t the equipment, the knowhow or the desire to participate in online church?
What’s wrong with it, though, is the assumption that this is a new problem! It may have only occurred to most of us for the first time because of being locked down, but the reality is that we’ve been running two-tier churches quite happily for years – it’s just the dividing line that’s changed…
Lawrence Moore is Church Mission and Discipleship Consultant for Walking the Walk, a United Reformed Church resource bank, and founder of iChurch
This is an extract from an article that was published in the July/August 2020 edition of Reform