That’s the most common comment I hear about online engagement and especially online Sunday services. It’s not the same. And, it’s not. Many of us miss the buzz in the Commons (and not just the coffee.)  Many of us miss the hugs and handshakes and personal contact that we get when we can gather in person. And, we will gather in person again. For now, we gather virtually on Zoom so we can see each other if we wish and so that we can engage as much as possible and as safely as possible for everyone. We gather to worship-to hold up that which is of worth, including our connection to each other.


There are ways to make it as good as it can be. Here are some tips adapted from an online resource for interfaith leaders called “Ministry Matters” offered by Constance Cherry, a professor of worship and pastoral Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University. (You can access the full article here.) 

Cherry suggests that the most fundamental shift is to move from watching to participating—from passively observing a produced service to fully engaging as an active participant. Here are some ideas to help you make that shift. 

1. Build anticipation. Talk to your family the night before about how exciting it will be to worship together “live” and see others that you know. For those who live alone, share your anticipation with someone you care about. You might even consider inviting them to join you from their home at the same time. 

2. Prepare the technology in advance. Make sure that you access the Zoom link 10 minutes in advance and that your connection is functioning well. That way, you won’t miss the first moments of the service while you are trouble-shooting any technical difficulties that could arise, especially with the slowdown in Internet capabilities many people are experiencing. 

3. Create a worshipful setting. Gather items that you have around the house to create sacred space. That might include a chalice and candle, and something to light the candle if needed. You might include any other items that are meaningful to you-flowers, items from nature, photos of loved ones, special stones or totems. Last, you might want to access or print out the Order of Service so you can follow along and see the hymn words. Or, grab your hymnal if you have one. Consider what will help you feel “at church.” 

4. Get settled. Make sure that the lighting in the room is conducive to avoid screen glare. Position everyone to be able to see the screen. Test the audio. Provide ample and comfortable seating for everyone. Grab that cup of coffee or tea. 

5. Center yourself. Take a moment to arrive where you are. Take a deep breath or two. Look around and enjoy your surroundings. Notice what you are feeling. Open your mind and heart. Breathe.  

6. Enthusiastically participate throughout the entire service! Don’t just watch other people sing, sing! Be ready to enter your Joys and Sorrows in the chat. If you are invited to engage in certain postures such as kneeling, bowing, standing, stretching out your hands to receive the benediction, do it! Do everything you would do if we were present together in the sanctuary—aloud! You will probably feel awkward. We know that doing and being are connected. To be worshipful and connected, do worship! 

7. Reflect on the experience. Mention what happened in worship at various points throughout the rest of the day and the upcoming week. Reflecting on what held meaning or was remarkable (other than the glitches in live streaming that happen to all of us!) is a way to remind ourselves that our weekly worship service at home has real significance. And, if something was meaningful for you, I’d love to hear about it!  

Last, Cherry says to think of this time as rehearsing for that first Sunday when we are finally back in our sanctuary together again. Our worship will surely be more enthusiastic for having made the shift from watching to participating now!


See you soon! 

Blessings on your week. 


Rev. Mary