By Naomi Brenman, St. Lydia’s coordinator
In March, when St. Lydia’s began doing church on Zoom, there was a lot to figure out. And so, the community adapted quickly and learned a little more every week about how to be St. Lydia’s on Zoom. Originally, the virtual script was almost identical to the script used for in person worship. But, it became clear that some of it did not serve anymore. Pretty quickly the standing portions of the service became sitting ones. As each season begins, St. Lydia’s explores new language, new songs to sing together and new ways to pray, while holding on to the familiar order and feeling of the service.
Singing together is central to St. Lydia’s. The Zoom platform allows only one voice to speak at a time. Perfect for listening to a sermon, but impractical for a group to sing together. A new role was created: the vox populi, or voice of the people. And so, the song leader leads, and the voice of the people responds. At home, the congregation sings along with the voice of the people while muted. And though it is not the same as singing in a room of people, St. Lydia’s has adapted. Many congregants find holiness in the singing, singing along at home, finding harmonies, or sometimes, staying silent to listen.
The St. Lydia’s service on Zoom is participatory. The reason St. Lydia’s remains so meaningful to the community on Zoom is because it has worked with Zoom, using functions like the chat box, screen sharing, and breakout groups to enhance the service. Now, the responses to readings in the chat box become found poems, sermons are preached with visual aid, and small dinner groups allow genuine connection, even virtually. The service includes three check-ins. The first is in pairs, the second as the community gathers and the service begins, and the third at the end of the service. The check-ins say to all participants: All ways of feeling are welcome in this moment, and someone is here to listen.
Using Zoom has also allowed the St. Lydia’s community to meet virtually throughout the week for prayer, study, and engagement with texts focused on racial justice. Since the pandemic began, Pr. Christian Scharen has led morning meditation and evening compline prayer, allowing those who desire it more ways to explore God. Weekly Oh God! Bible Study meetings allow for personal exploration into the weekly scripture through Lectio Divina and other methods. As part of a commitment to anti-racism work, St. Lydia’s began a monthly book club: St. Lydia’s Reads. The community virtually engaged around deepening understanding of racism and white supremacy in America. through discussion questions on the congregant Facebook group and a Zoom discussion each month. Some of the books included: How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong.
Many months in, some congregants still yearn for a big pot of soup with rosemary ciabatta for dipping. St. Lydia’s is a Dinner Church committed to sharing the meal. That means something different now that the meal is shared only virtually, with each congregant eating their own dinner in their own home. But, as St. Lydia’s meets tirelessly and robustly on Zoom, the Community is sustained by the fact that when able to meet in person again, St. Lydia’s will not be what it was in March. It will be something new, carrying the lessons and opportunities and new faces of Zoom into the next chapter.
Join St. Lydia’s for Dinner Church at 6:00 on Sunday’s and 7:00 on Monday’s.
You are very welcome here!