Simple Online Sunday Morning
Simple Online Sunday Morning
glass jars with candles

As we live into this time of physical distancing and online Sunday morning, remember there’s no need for anything complex. Go simple. People need connection more than anything else. You can do this with everyone at home on Zoom, Facebook Live, or even a conference call. Use what you're comfortable with. Expect glitches and be gentle with yourself.

Rev. Lynn Ungar, who has been doing online ministry with the Church of the Larger Fellowship for years, writes:

"People are incredibly kind and forgiving. We have had all kinds of times when the technology failed, when we had to ask people log out and come back in, when things started late because something wasn't working. Technology goes haywire a lot. People have always been very generous of spirit about it. Also, when you are leading worship from your house, things happen. I would prefer that my dog not bark while I am praying, but, you know, it happens. And people not only are sweet about it, I think they appreciate the intimacy of our stumbling through the best we can. Strive for connection rather than perfection."

Some Tech Tips for Your First Sunday

  • Using Zoom

  • Create a Zoom drop-in time beforehand so people can test and figure out the technology
  • Mute everyone’s microphones when they’re not talking. (The host can do this in the attendees section.)

  • Have a phone number someone can call if they’re having difficulty

  • Send people an instruction sheet ahead of time

  • People can use a smart phone or computer to access via video, or they can call in by phone, even by landline. Encourage them to use video if they can as this is much more connective and allows them to use the chat feature.

  • Rev. Darcy Baxter uses humor to share learning from experience to reassure you about being on camera!

Some Elements of a Simple Online Service

  • Provide some music through a video, recording, or having someone play an instrument or sing. (Pay attention to copyright).

    • Before sharing your screen, be sure to check the box: "Share Computer Sound" 

    • People can sing along with their mics muted. Singing together does not work because of the lag!

  • Opening words and a reading

  • Do joys and concerns. First concerns, then joys. People can unmute to speak if your group is small. For larger groups, use the chat feature.

  • Lead a meditation

  • If you include a homily, keep it personal and short.

  • You can do breakout rooms for reflection. If you recruit facilitators ahead of time they’ll be prepared to help everyone speak in turn. 

  • Close with music and a benediction

  • You can do coffee hour chat afterwards. The breakout room function could be used for larger groups. 

Prioritize

  • Intimacy and connection over glitz

  • Quality sound over video

  • Being present and caring for each other. It helps to have someone in responding pastorally in the chat.

Using Facebook Live

Facebook Live allows you to stream video and audio from one location.

  • This works well for telling a story, sharing a homily, or performing music. So you can do a service similar to how you usually do and people can watch from home.

  • It is less interactive than zoom, but people can participate in the stream by commenting. Have someone paying attention and responding to the comments. 

  • The video is automatically saved afterwards and people can watch later.

Using a Conference Call Service

If you have enough people without computers or phones that can access zoom, you might want to use a conference call service to connect. For a small congregation, this might be your Sunday morning experience. For a larger congregation, you can have one of your drop in small group ministries happen over conference call.

Tips

  • A small group ministry or small service on conference call might start with opening words, chalice lighting (have everyone light a chalice where they are), check in or joys and concerns, a guided meditation, a reading, sharing on a topic, and closing words

  • Have people mute their phones when they’re not speaking

  • For sharing times, call on one person at a time. It’s hard on a conference call of more than four people for people to figure out how to naturally “jump” into conversation without visual clues.

Other Options to Keep It Simple

  • Encourage your members to attend the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s online services

  • Share a recorded sermon or other congregation’s service in advance of your online gathering and spend your time together connecting and then sharing around that topic.

  • Keep Sunday simple and use some of that time and energy to create drop-in times to chat on zoom and/or short spiritual grounding times through the week to help isolation.

  • Some congregations are collaborating by rotating services between them. For example if three congregations collaborate, Church A streams week 1, Fellowship B streams week 2, and Society C streams week 3.  Also, congregations can collaborate by having the same story for all ages or music and altering the sermon etc. Be creative. You are limited by what you can imagine.  The more shared resources the better.

More Resources

About the Author

  • The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the UUA Congregational Life Staff...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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