The Chapel Channel
Five small village chapels have worked together to provide online ministry for their congregations during the coronavirus lockdown.
Activities like ‘content creation’ and ‘live streaming’ have been forced onto the skills list of church leaders since the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 as they quickly learnt how to minister to their churches online.
However, adapting to remote ministry has been a much bigger task for smaller churches with less resources and elderly congregations. Not only has learning new technology skills been harder, but online church is less effective in reaching those without the technology to access the services.
The Chapel Channel
This was the problem faced by five small chapels in West Sussex. Enter Paul Thompson, who runs the Ifold Christian Fellowship. He, and a team from each of Rudgwick Chapel, Alfold Chapel, Kirdford Chapel, and School Lane Evangelical Church, Fittleworth, decided to pool resources and expertise to run online services together for the whole area.
The outcome of this partnership has been a Zoom service on a Sunday, with a third of the congregation dialling in on their phone, and a Zoom Bible study on a Wednesday which is later shared on a new YouTube channel, pleasingly named The Chapel Channel (introduction video below).
Counting those at the Zoom services and people watching the Bible studies later on YouTube, there are up to 60 logging in to be encouraged by one another, to hear from God’s word, and to sing praise to God through lyric videos streamed during each service. And all this for a group of local churches with little resource or technological knowledge, and small, elderly congregations who are learning as they go.
Paul shared “One of our congregation is a blind lady who dials in each week via an Apple watch and her mobile phone. She loves the services and the opportunity to chat afterwards. If only for her, it has all been worth it.”
“We see a long-term future for the Chapel Channel in providing services for those who are unable to attend church when they can operate again, and for those whose church does not provide a mid-week bible study.” Paul said.
Benefits and challenges
The Chapel Channel and joint Zoom services were designed specifically for the people they served: Sunday services on Zoom mean that there is some feeling of being together, even as people are staying home to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
Roger Lossley, of Kirdford Chapel, explained: “With Zoom, we can meet at the same time and, using Gallery view, we can see one another for our mutual encouragement. We do not publish the Zoom identification number or password so that anybody who wishes to participate has to request these. This adds a level of security, which is important.”
Plus, Zoom is helpful for those who don’t have access to the internet or technology as meetings can be dialled into using a phone.
Uploading the mid-week Bible studies is also a useful service to allow those who can’t attend on the day to keep engaged and being fed on the word of God, although some expertise in editing and using YouTube itself is needed.
Roger warned any churches thinking of setting up something similar: “You will need someone, and preferably more than one person, who is comfortable with the technology, especially as most of the users might not be. And the successful transmission of services is dependent on reliable broadband - which in rural areas can be a challenge.”
Here is a wonderful example of gospel partnership in action, to create a solution to a big problem which enables God’s people to keep growing in faith and love during a difficult time.