Bastions of tradition, and popular with the elderly, churches are not usually expected to be early adopters of new technology. However, the arrival of Covid-19 to the UK and the subsequent lockdown has seen churches in Lewisham at the vanguard of the move from physical to online community spaces.
Within two weeks of having to close, many churches have moved their whole operation online, giving services through live streams which are recorded and then uploaded as videos on Youtube. They have left many other community organisations and government backed initiatives standing.
St Andrews church in Sandhurst Road is one example of this transition. The vicar, Father Lindsay Mckenna, is now performing Sunday mass and two prayer sessions a day on Facebook Live streams from his kitchen. The streams are subsequently uploaded to Youtube to be permanently visible. Crystal Callow, a lay minister at St Andrews, describes the impact of their online offering:
"Someone shared one of our live broadcasts today. It reached sixteen hundred people, and was viewed by five hundred. To many people it's a lifeline. We've had message after message from people saying the best thing about this lockdown is that they can still communicate and connect with the church family. It's been beyond our wildest dreams to be honest. An online community is a huge untapped resource which has really come into it's own."
The church is also using emailing as it's main tool of communication with their regular congregation. This comprises about one hundred people. As their are five members of the church team, each one is assigned twenty congregants to maintain regular contact with.
The combination of an organised structure and an established client base has also helped St Hilda's in Crofton park go online. Fr Stuart, vicar of St Hilda's says: "people have taken to the live-stream very well. It's been viewed on three continents, and its intriguing to see the viewings quadruple over the succeeding week. We put the liturgy on our website and people are opening that on their mobile phones whilst viewing on their mobile phones or casting to their television. After the Sunday service we switch to Zoom confirmation class. Notices and special prayers go out on Whatsapp in the week."