Dear St. Marks,
Thank you to everyone who completed a survey! Overall, the responses were quite positive, and they are helping us to refine the ways we connect and the programs we develop. Personally, I was moved by the number of you who offered encouragement and gratitude for the shift to online worship. It is a difficult thing, both technologically and spiritually, and I am awed by the resiliency and connectedness of this congregation. As someone who feels somewhat disconnected by being on the other side of the screen, it was very helpful for me to hear that what we are doing matters so much to many of you.
Here is a small sampling of some of your affirmative feedback about Sunday mornings:
- I am awed by how wonderfully you have made this terrible time.
- Living alone, it has been enormously helpful and uplifting to have been able to have the Sunday service on the computer.
- I’ve found the Sunday service to be surprisingly moving and uplifting
- I love the ease of online – it makes it easier to participate.
- Having slipped away from the church, attending online services has drawn me back in. You do a fabulous job and it is so appreciated.
Some of you have also connected in other ways, particularly on zoom Compline and in your neighborhood Companion Groups.
Not everything is going well for everyone, of course. Some of you have had technical difficulties, and some are not feeling connected at all. I hear you, and I empathize with you. I too feel that online is just not the same, and long for a time when it will be safe to gather in person.
Areas for improvement
The issues that came up the most frequently were sound difficulties, and inconsistent scrolling of text and displaying of music during livestreaming. We have already been working in recent weeks to fix our sound setup and keep it consistent, and we will continue to try to improve audio levels. Moving forward, we will be trying a different way of having words and music on the screen, so viewers can see more at once and our operator will have less to scroll through.
Requests for ways to connect
- Worship without screens. Try an Agape Liturgy — it is a short service of scripture, prayer, blessing to be used with a meal, either alone or with others in your household.
- Connect online without video, just to chat: Consider joining our facebook group, where members of St. Mark’s check in about life, share what they’ve been reading, offer prayer, and more!
- Know what scripture readings are coming up for Sunday: Check your messenger newsletter! There is a link, right at the top. Or, since St. Mark’s follows the Revised Common Lectionary, you can find it on your own anytime (although, note for this Sunday we will use the lessons from Mary Magdalene’s feast day, which is July 22).
- Following along using a bulletin: We prioritized having anyone who finds our service being able to follow along, right there and then. However, there is a link every Sunday for you to be able to download the order of service if you wish. (See image for example.)
Areas of concern
Yes, we are already working on ways to continue streaming, once we do begin to gather in person! Many of you have expressed how important this is, and our clergy and techs agree. We know some of you will not safely be able to join us physically until after there is a vaccine, or possibly even beyond that, and we are going to do our best to keep you connected.
I hear the ache in your comments about missing Eucharist, singing together, and just being with one another. The gathered community is fundamental to our understanding of living as the Body of Christ in the world. We are a sacramental people; we emphasize tactile ways of knowing God’s grace: water, oil, bread, wine, hands. We hold the incarnation in high regard: Jesus in the flesh really matters. And. We are the Church without these things. It is indeed a sacrifice and a loss that warrants the deep grief some of us feel. But being Christian has long been identified by the love each has for the other, especially the most vulnerable among us. In this season, however long it may last, we are tasked as a community with keeping the protection of others (and ourselves) the highest priority. Additionally, as an Episcopal Church, we operate not on our own but as part of a broader community, and so we look to the guidance from our Diocese and wait for approval from our Bishop before beginning any physical regathering. I know it is hard. For my part, I will continue to brainstorm, imagine, and to pray about what will support the spiritual life of this congregation, and I invite your ideas and inspirations.
I am available by phone (650.326.3800 xt 16), email ([email protected]), and sometimes even zoom if you need to talk further on any of this (or anything else going on in your life).
May God’s blessing be upon each of you, this day and always.
In Christ who strengthens us,