26 August 2020
Online worship hits milestone at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster
Views of lockdown services reach 200,000
With recent research showing that 1 in 4 people have engaged in online worship since lockdown began, it is no surprise that a major church like Methodist Central Hall, Westminster(MCHW) has seen significant numbers of people attending online services in the last few months. The scale of numbers and the geographical spread is, however, remarkable.
Dan Forshaw, Communications & Digital Media Coordinator at MCHW, explains: “During lockdown we have been online every Sunday and have had over 200,000 views of our output over that time. In the last couple of months, even after some churches have physically re-opened, we have had 1400 live views each week with around 7,000 families and individuals viewing services after just five days.”
The historic Great Hall in the church building has a capacity of 2,100 and was built for large church and civic gatherings (it has the largest self-supporting dome of its kind in Europe). By most standards, the usual Sunday attendance of around 300+ is very large. Yet, virtual church numbers have dwarfed this with one service in July attracting over 20,000 views.
The services, which are streamed via the church’s dedicated website MCHW.LIVE and via YouTube, were initially presented using a virtual ‘Smartstage’ studio. With the easing of lockdown, however, the Revd Tony Miles, Superintendent Minister, is now broadcasting services from MCHW’s Chapel, with contributors joining in via Zoom.
Mr Miles said, "This endeavour has been a magnificent team effort. During the war years, the Revd William E. Sangster was the Superintendent of MCHW, and he managed to fill the Great Hall for evening services; many people would gather from other churches and beyond. Today, during a crisis of a different kind, MCHW is reaching even greater numbers through digital technology. I firmly believe broadcasting is a means of serving the wider Church and impacting the lives of those who might never enter a church building."
MCHW’s vision statement is to be a “Global Christian family following Jesus at the heart of London”. It has 34 countries and national groupings represented in the congregation. This global dimension has grown during lockdown with 18% of views coming from outside the UK. The online services are most popular in India, Brazil and the USA.
Given its physical location (just a stone’s throw from Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey) and its history as the founding venue for the United Nations, MCHW has welcomed visitors from all over the globe for the past 108 years. Now people from all over the world welcome MCHW into their homes every Sunday, "The challenge is how we effectively offer pastoral care to our global online community and help nurture discipleship," said Mr Miles, "Like John Wesley, we find ourselves looking upon the whole world as our parish!"