Many churches including mosques across Nottingham and the UK are migrating to online streaming in a bid to remain relevant and connected with their followers during the lockdown period.
“Although our building is closed, we continue to pray from our hearts and homes,” the Very Reverend Nicola Sullivan, Dean of Southwell, wrote on its website.
The situation has forced many to create new ways of connecting for worship and fellowship like pre-recorded reflections from faith leaders, rehearsal clips, radio programmes and music videos among others.
Services from Southwell Minster were streamed online for the first time on Easter Sunday 2020 and those not connected technologically are reached via phone to offer help and support. The clergy take turns to lead a pre-recorded Mass service that goes online to be accessed on Sundays.
Audio: Dean of Southwell Minster, Nicola Sullivan talks about how they stay connected.
“This is all very new for everybody and the church and community are doing all they can to help and support each other through technology,” she added.
The challenges of having gone online are felt in different ways but the toughest one, Rev Sullivan said, is trying to comfort and counsel the bereaved and other vulnerable members of the community virtually.
Nottingham imam and chair of the Council of Mosques Dr Amjad Aziz said that the lockdown has hit all mosques badly. Fridays are their biggest day with between 600 and 1,000 attendees, and these services may not be streamed or filmed, he explained.
Ramadan, the Muslims’ biggest month-long religious festival which started on 24 April, is very much affected. The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board said Islamic buildings would remain closed during Ramadan until the lockdown is lifted.
“Religiously we cannot have Friday services because it is proper physical worship which can only happen within the mosques and this is not happening.”
Dr Amjad Aziz, Imam
Islamic guidelines are being provided via social media and radio programmes to hold worship at home. The other platforms Dr Aziz and other imams use to connect and share daily talks are Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, and Whatsapp.
“Religiously we cannot have Friday services because it is proper physical worship which can only happen within the mosques and this is not happening,” said Dr Aziz. Their alternative is to pray at home.
Rev Tom Gillum from St Mary’s Church, Nottingham, said: “I feel a bit powerless not to be able to do my basic job, and with technology it is just not the same.”
To create a sense of community, the church has decided to do the actual service via an online audio broadcast like a radio programme which reaches a wider audience and allows people to contribute to it. “It is a simple format, and meant to give a real feel of what St Mary’s worship is like,” he said, and the responses received were positive, said Rev Gillum.
Slideshow: Churches on Derby Road in Nottingham
With no set date of when the lockdown measures will start to be relaxed, places of worship will remain closed and online fellowship will probably rise in and around Nottingham.