Campbelltown Uniting Church: Online worship has been challenging

Campbelltown Uniting Church: Online worship has been challenging

Continuing Insights’ series of interviews with ministers of congregations in LGAs of concern, we asked Rev. Andy Carlisle, minister of Campbelltown Uniting Church, about his congregation’s experiences of tightened restrictions. He told Insights that while they were more technologically prepared for this lockdown, online worship still has its difficulties.

“We had installed new cameras late last year, which makes the technical side of things easier, as we know what we’re doing (most of the time). However, there is the challenge of preaching to an empty church, negotiating copyright, and finding ways of engaging. We follow the service with a Zoom morning tea for connection purposes.”

Pastoral care is proving especially tricky: “We have a team that keeps in touch with people by text, phone, and email. Funerals are a major challenge with both lack of numbers and lack of singing. Although some families can attend, they miss out on the tactile support of people being there with them. I think the greatest thing that is lacking is the casual pastoral contacts at church, or out shopping, etc.”

The hardest part this time around, Rev. Carlisle told Insights, is the waiting. While the lockdown in 2020 presented a “steep learning curve” in terms of online worship, this year staying home is “more interminable.”

“The systems are all in place… It is just a waiting game until we can meet, and that would seem to depend on vaccination rates.”

Much of the Campbelltown Uniting Church congregation are retired and are fortunate not to face financial difficulties as a result of this lockdown. However, many are worried about and separated from their children and grandchildren.

“As far as my work and the church is concerned,” Rev. Carlisle told Insights, “I find the lack of ability to plan ahead most frustrating. We don’t know when we will be able to meet together again, our connections with the community are mostly on hold, and there is a reluctance to anticipate being able to do things.”

Gabrielle Cadenhead is a mission worker for Christian Students Uniting at the University of Sydney

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