‘You’re on mute’ is one of the most memorable phrases of the pandemic. But in Cornwall the churches have definitely not been ‘on mute’ and going online in 2021 has led to an at least ten-fold increase in the numbers we have been able to reach during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An integrated programme of daily services at Noon on Zoom (and also Facebook Live), daily podcasts from local church and community leaders, a 24/7 Prayer Chain and accompanying Prayer Board, coupled with daily social media posts on themes and actions of the day together with Sunday services from local Churches Together groups resulted in well over 1000 engagements.
Reviewing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020, before Covid-19 struck, we had agreed to ‘go digital’ in 2021 in an attempt to reach all corners of our far-flung county, where travel to a service in the county town of Truro is often impractical. We were thinking of pre-recorded videos on YouTube but then Zoom and live-streaming burst into our lives, offering a whole new range of opportunities. By October the likelihood of ‘in-person’ services in January was waning and we decided then to go entirely online. An ecumenical and county-wide team of presenters was assembled, and we agreed to do a daily live service at 12noon on Zoom, also live-streamed on Facebook so those who wished to watch later could see the recording. Quite a steep learning curve but in the event all ran (fairly) smoothly and 152 people joined on Zoom and a further 413 to date on Facebook, at total of 565 so both were well worth doing. It was great to see people from the far north of the county and from the Isles of Scilly who could never make it to Truro. The services are also available on our YouTube channel. Downloadable pdf’s were also produced for churches to give out to those not online.
Complementing the daily services was an entirely new initiative, CTC Podcasts, with daily reflections from local church and community leaders on the theme of the service for that day. Published at 6am, these were widely distributed on Twitter (5,500 impressions), Facebook and (after some technical difficulties!) Spotify. Over 500 people listened on the Acast host site. The podcasts were compiled and presented by CTC’s vice-chair Donna Birrell, until recently presenter of BBC Radio Cornwall’s faith programme – we are extremely fortunate to have her expertise! We are planning more podcasts for future events including Racial Justice Sunday and Fairtrade Fortnight.
46 people committed to 71 hours of prayer in our prayer chain, which achieved good coverage in the mornings from 6am to noon but was pretty ‘holey’ at other times but nevertheless still holy! And many will have been praying without signing up throughout the week. Many found the accompanying Prayer Board very helpful and a snapshot is available on our infoHub for ongoing consultation.
Alongside CTC’s activities, several local Churches Together groups organised online services on Sunday, including Launceston, Par, St Austell and Falmouth & Penryn.
Although forced on us by the pandemic it’s clear that the online Week of Prayer is here to stay and Christian voices raised in unity will continue unmuted for years to come!
All the resources mentioned can be accessed at www.ctcinfohub.org/wpcu.
Some comments on the Week:
The Rt Revd Philp Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro: Really encouraging!
The Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans: … such a rich, creative and prayerful response to the changed circumstances.
Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson, Acting Chair, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Methodist District: hugely encouraging. Thank you for letting me part of the adventure!
Daniel Roberts, Transformation Cornwall: a real blessing and an opportunity to reflect on the richness of Christian tradition and practice. It was so fantastic to see faith leaders from across denominations engaging with each other’s work and lifting each other up in their ministries. This was especially visible on social media with church groups of all colours and stripes sharing the resources and podcasts regardless of traditional denominational affiliation. Truly inspiring to see.
Jane Yeomans, Transformation Cornwall: I found the podcasts really inspiring and the differences in contributions was their strength, knowing that what was happening in Cornwall was part of something much bigger and knowing that that something bigger was in turn part of something bigger and so on and that it was all just deeply connected to a powerful sharing of God’s love.
The opportunity to join others in prayer in this way, I found personally nourishing and sustaining and confirmed that there is no single right way, but that together it is all complete.’
Roger Mills, Missioner, Churches Together in Cornwall
16 January 2021