Church House Blog: Staying connected

In this Church House Blog, Jim Butterworth, Director of Communications in the Diocese of Chester shares resources and training to help parishes get the most out of their new role keeping people connected in a society forced to be apart. 



Staying connected

24 April 2020
By Jim Butterworth, Director of Communications


Changing culture is hard at the best of times, but in the past few weeks, we’ve seen a Church mobilise and move online.

It’s been a transformation.

Some parishes have embraced the opportunity with wigs and costumes, or re-enactments of the Easter story in the vicarage back garden, others have included practical crafting and a Blue Peter mindset. Some parishes have kept things low key and simply used an old A-Z to pray for their parish street by street.

Some of the videos I've shared with our social media accounts have been the most viewed content we’ve ever shared, and many parishes are reporting a huge spike in numbers to their websites and online content. It’s all very exciting.

The Church of England has ramped up its online training for people who want to go further and produce more sophisticated content and there is a multitude of YouTube videos to help with lighting, sound, and editing. You might also want to read this excellent blog about planning and producing your streaming content and this training material and video “top tips” from Norman Ivison a former BBC Producer in the Diocese of Blackburn.

And for those who want to do some wrap-around marketing and create graphics and other elements, Canva is a great free graphic design tool, if you haven’t discovered it for yourself yet.

But producing videos and posting them to multiple social media accounts takes time and energy. The novelty of those first few weeks has probably worn off and if, as government scientists suggest, we’re in this for the long haul, then finding ways to produce content efficiently and effectively in a more routine fashion will become important. I hope some of the links above will help.

Of course, social media and digital content are not for everyone, it doesn’t suit everyone’s skill set, and no matter how beautifully crafted the content, parishioners not online are unlikely to see it. 

The Ministry Team in Macclesfield has responded to this conundrum and turned to a service they discovered called WhyPay, whose USP is to facilitate "genuinely free" group phone calls. The Macclesfield Team now bring people together in a telephone conference call more akin to a coffee-morning at Church.

The Revd Martin Stephens says: “We’ve been concerned that a number of church folk are on their own, and although one-to-one phone calls are great, sometimes what you need is the chit-chat of a number of people together, like round the table in the church Welcome Area.

“I’ve discovered a phone calls facility with WhyPay, whereby whoever is wanting to be part of a group chat each dials up the same given number, then types in an access code, and finally a PIN. It’s as easy as that!”

Martin tested it with his family before rolling it out to the parish.

The Church of England is also developing a telephone service for the digitally disconnected. The basic idea is that users will be able to call a freephone number and, using their telephone keypad, select from a range of options including prayer, reflections, song and worship.

Look out for more details very soon!

As ever, A Church Near You is continuing to be a focus for the national church. If your parish is on ACNY and you are live-streaming or producing video content, there is now a function that can be enabled to indicate you are publishing content online.

Additionally, ACNY will shortly roll out new functions to help parishes with parochial giving. Parishes will be able to include a new “button” on their page to help facilitate digital giving. More information on this will be communicated in the next few weeks. 

Also, in the pipeline is a series of podcasts from the Diocese of Chester exploring whether the Church is now more connected or more divided. The podcast will try to answer that question from a number of different perspectives relating to everyday faith and will hopefully be a source of inspiration as well as resource for parishes. 


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