New Connections: Online Worship Matters

By Sarah Lowther Hensley

Coffee is on and the iPad is fully charged.

I’m ready for Sunday morning worship.

When the pandemic began and in-person worship was paused, new opportunities for outreach and inclusion began to flourish all around us.

What started out as a stop-gap Band-Aid resulted in creativity and connection.

For the past year+ my Sunday morning worship routine has included two weekly worship services and a new sort of connection with family members who tune in simultaneously from where they are. We text message with each other throughout the morning – offering greetings, passing the peace, and commenting on the service. It’s like our own tech version of an amen corner.

“That’ll preach!”

 “Be strong. Armor up. Pray.”

“That was a tune from MYF camp songs, The Ash Grove!”

“She has a way with words.”

“Restored to community!”

 If we have learned nothing else during this pandemic, it’s that gathering can take many forms – including virtual. Indeed for some, due to health or other reasons, this virtual option may be their only real one. From worship to baby showers to holiday meals to work meetings, we have figured out how to connect on-line. That connection is genuine and meaningful.

Churches often lift up ministries to “shut-ins” – such as swinging by annually for caroling at their front door and sending cards. We make real effort to stay connected with them and now we have additional ways to connect them into our community’s worship experience.

If churches return to “normal” and abandon the new and creative ways we have made virtual worship possible, the term “shut-ins” should really be changed – if we’re being honest – to “shut-outs.”

Those who have found us online and started a relationship with us, perhaps persons who were never likely to “set foot in” an in-person worship service, are also worthy of sustained connection.

If the only way our congregation’s members are in community with one another is the one hour of worship on Sunday morning that is its own situation to address.

Virtual worship is real, is meaningful, and opens the opportunity for connection to everyone. Once connected these persons can be included and invited to be part of the larger ministries of our congregations.

Let’s keep that door open.


Sarah Lowther Hensley is a lay member of Barrackville United Methodist Church and a regular online worshipper at Bridgeport UMC and First UMC, Evanston, Illinois.

Photos – Apostles Creed BUMC; Sent Out in Jesus Name Evanston