Mass livestreamed on Facebook. CNS photo/Katie Rutter

‘Virtual’ church is here to stay

  • May 24, 2020

No one is saying closing church doors was a good thing, but it did open another door to an online world for faith communities that will likely continue to grow long after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whenever you have a disruption to everyday life you have innovation happening that adjusts to the situation and faith communities are no different,” said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of the Ottawa-based religious think tank Cardus.

“Some of that fades away after the crisis passes and things go back to how they were always done before, but some of that innovation stays and becomes how things are going forward,” he said.

From live-streamed Masses to Bible studies via Zoom to Theology on Tap webinars, the Church and its ministries have quickly evolved into a virtual experience as self-isolation and social distancing became new norms because of the coronavirus.

Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that face-to-face interaction with parishioners is vital to how the Church operates, but he can see how some of the innovations within the Church across the country can augment how individual dioceses engage with parishioners in the future.

“I think using technology will always be secondary to the face-to-face aspect of gathering together as a spiritual community,” Gagnon told Canadian Catholic News. “But I think we are going to see that some of the creative ways that some of our churches are adopting and using technology is a positive and will be useful in the future.”

The CEO of Convergence, an American-based faith consulting organization, said the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how faith communities function.

“The gift of COVID-19 is that it has catapulted the Church into the technological era, awakening us to ways that we can offer good, wise theology into a world that needs it,” said Rev. Cameron Trimple.

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