The Work of the People

One of the neat things about this strange time is that we all have the opportunity to “go to church” in many different places.  Different congregations are doing things differently, and from time to time I get questions about the different ways of doing church online.  Here’s an overview of the main ways worship happens these days and a few of their strengths/weaknesses.

Facebook Live

St. Luke’s did Facebook Live worship the first few months of the pandemic.  One or a handful of worship leaders do the service while anyone on facebook can join “in real time.”  The poster can choose whether or not to have the service available for later viewing (we did).

Strengths:  Real time interaction among congregation through commenting, worship leaders see comments and number of participants.  Can be done with any equipment, does not need special knowledge.  Fairly easy to access by members and others.  People can access worship when it’s convenient for them.  Easy for visitors to join in.

Weaknesses:  Live aspect means that if the celebrant’s wifi goes down, the service can’t happen/continue, and that distractions/interruptions may happen.  Very limited number of worship leaders.

A number of congregations are doing full Zoom worship.  Every participant joins by Zoom and worships in real time together.  (This may or may not be recorded and posted elsewhere after the service, or also livestreamed.)

Zoom Worship

Strengths:  Participants get to see (and sometimes hear) one another.  Shared leadership of services.

Weaknesses: Impossible to stay together when speaking as a group.  All must worship at the designated time.  Somewhat regularly, there is not bandwidth to livestream a zoom worship.  Limited to those who have the Zoom information.  More difficult for parishioners to access.  Impossible for visitors/strangers to join service. 

Prerecorded Zoom

This is how we are now offering worship at St. Luke’s.  Worship leaders hold a small service earlier in the week which is recorded and posted at the designated time

Strengths:  More members involved in worship leadership.  Can be rescheduled or redone if issues arise.  Worshipers can interact by commenting when post goes live, or can worship when convenient to them.  Easy for visitors to join.

Weaknesses:  Leaders are all in separate spaces, so in order to have singing with the organ the celebrant must be elsewhere.  Limits leadership involvement to those who can be present at recording time.

Recorded Individually and Edited

This is how the National Cathedral and several local congregations provide worship these days. It is how our Youth Service was created several weeks ago. Different worship leaders record their parts at different times.  All these recordings are shared with an editor who creates the service out of these pieces and posts for viewing.

Strengths:  This worship looks best and feels most familiar.  Easy for visitors to join.

Weaknesses:  Increased stress on organizer who must ensure all recordings are available by designated time.  All worship leaders need access to and knowledge of recording equipment or a cameraperson available to record.  Editing takes 4-30 hours per week with software and training. For worship leaders, often speaking your part alone into a camera doesn’t feel like worship.  


Something I realized after participating in our first edited service is how deeply I need “liturgy.” Liturgy comes from the Greek which means “work of the people.”  Even in this strange coronatide, I need us somehow to be together in worship through more than just editing.  When we worshiped by Facebook Live, I watched as your comments scrolled by and felt us participating in this liturgy together.  When we gather for Wednesday noonday prayers on Zoom, we participate in liturgy together.  The way we currently do Spiritual Communion, the other worship leaders and I actually do liturgy together as we record the service.  I need that.  

Does liturgy as “the work of the people” matter to you?  

How are you feeling connected to worship and to St. Luke’s during this time of social distancing?

Being Strong, Needing Help

I have been a leader since I was a kid.  I was the youth representative on a number of boards as a high school student, and was put in charge of a diocesan program at age 18.  Throughout my life, I’ve always been seen as strong and independent.  Which often worked just fine for me.

But there have been times in my life when my life has gotten to be too much.  And what I found out is that being a strong, independent woman did not prepare me to ask for help.  And even more disheartening, when I finally screwed up the courage to ask for help, people didn’t believe I really needed it.  I got minimal help, even when I asked for it.  

And so, over the past decade, I have been working on sharing my needs more, asking for help more, building a support system of people who could hear me when I said, “Help,” people who would encourage me to say,”Help” and people who would help when called.  

These friends and groups and colleagues have been a lifeline to me during the chaos and change of this pandemic.  Receiving help has actually kept me strong.  It has supported me in thinking independently.

So…how about you?  

What do other people think about you?  Are they able to respond to your asks for help and companionship?  

What do you think about yourself?  Can you ask for help and companionship?

I say this a lot: We are in this for the long haul.  

If you don’t yet have a cadre of friends and companions who can hear your call for help, and who can respond meaningfully — make that a priority for the coming months. 
Re-connect with those you care about.

Model vulnerability with one another.  

It is good to be strong.  It is also good to be helped. 

Connecting With The World

One of the things that has happened to me during quarantine is that my world has become very small. Often I stay within the same 50ft x 50ft space for 164 of my 168 hours each week.

Although I connect with dozens and dozens of people virtually each week, it somehow isn’t quite the same as being in the same space, bumping into each other, having a spontaneous conversation. I keep updated with the world beyond my yard by spending time each day with the New York Times and Facebook. And yet, my world is becoming so, so small.

A few weeks ago, a clergy friend of mine shared that she spent a few minutes each morning watching the sunrise through this Facebook page. It seemed like an interesting practice, and so I liked them and marked them as a “see first” on my Facebook feed.

Wow! I am so thankful to take a moment each day to be reminded of the constant rhythm of the waves and of the absolute guarantee that the sun WILL rise (no matter what it looks like on any given day). Having these daily reminders of the enormity of God’s creation has helped me not get too lost in my 50 ft x 50 ft space that is where I live most of my life these days.

What helps you connect to the wider world beyond what you can see and touch? What are your reminders of God’s presence and the ultimate “all will be well”?

Helen in her small yard, remembering the enormity of God through the sunrise, and a hazelnut.

We’re In a Riptide

I’ve talked with you a number of times about the metaphor for this time of being in a Blizzard–but no, it’s Winter–but no, it’s an Ice Age. I’ve found it to be a really helpful way to think about what this time in our collective lives will be like.

But this week, I’ve settled on a new metaphor: The Riptide.

Growing up in Kansas, I have been pretty unfamiliar with oceans and their ways. So when we moved to North Carolina, I was fascinated about/terrified of riptides. When we go to the beach, I’m hypervigilant and make sure to quiz my kids about what to do if they get caught in a riptide.

Just as a reminder: People die in riptides when they expend all their energy trying desperately to swim back to the place on the beach where they began. The way to survive a riptide is to take a moment to relax and get your bearings. Set your sight on a new patch of beach down current in the riptide, and deliberately swim diagonal to the currant until you swim out of it and land on that new section of beach.

And this, my friends, is where we are in relationship to church. Congregations that are desperately working to make things look and feel just like they did before the pandemic are exhausting themselves, and ultimately may not survive the pandemic.

But as the rector of St. Luke’s, I feel like we have been able to take a moment to breathe and re-orient ourselves. The vestry and I are working on setting our sights on a new and different beach. A place where we continue our main worship online, but also offer some small outdoor worship. A place where formation and connections continue to deepen through online offerings, collaboration, and some small outdoor gatherings. A place where we begin to understand anew what it means to Welcome Radically, Serve Gratefully, and Love Abundantly in this strange time. It is not where we’ll be forever, but it is an anchor…for a time…while we are in this strange and chaotic space.

May you be blessed this day.

Helen’s Riff on Riptides.