I know it's quite old school but chatting on the phone is a great way to keep in touch with people. I would hope that all of us have access to a phone of one sort or another. Let's make use of it to keep in touch with those we love. And let's be proactive. Let's not sit around waiting for somebody to give us a ring. We can all take the initiative in keeping in touch, even the shy introverts like me!
Keeping in touch via text is also a great option for people with even the most basic of mobile phones. I'd encourage you as you think of people and wonder how they're getting on to send them a quick text to let them know. You have no idea how the texts that some of you have sent me over the years have sustained me and spoken to me. Let's be doing that for one another.
For those with smartphones Whatsapp is a brilliant tool. The ability to set up groups conversations is hugely useful. I'm in numerous Whatsapp groups. Family groups with different permutations of our various family members. Groups around various small groups that I'm in. Prayer groups praying into a specific issue. Groups based around different teams that I'm in. Whatsapp also allows you to make audio and video calls very easily, and to do group calls with up to 4 people. Let's make the most of all these options.
I know that some have a resistance to using Facebook, but I'd really encourage people to install it, if only for this season. It really is the simplest tool for accessing things like my prayercast, the latest information on church life including my update videos and information on Foodbank and how we can get involved. We've looked at replicating all of that information on the Kerith website but that is going to require quite a lot of effort which we want to use elsewhere at this moment in time. If you need help installing Facebook then find a friendly teenager!
We're very fortunate as a community that we've already invested in all the technology to allow us to stream our Sunday meetings. For the foreseeable future our Sunday gatherings will focus around a 9.30am live stream which you can either watch live or later on in the week. This will come from our Bracknell site but will involve people from all our mainland sites. Our team are working hard to make this experience as good as it can possibly be. I'll be preaching for the next two Sundays and then we'll be hearing from Paul Manwaring on the 5th April.
We're also working on a streamed Sunday program for children, something we're calling Kerith Kids TV. We're hoping to have episode one ready for this Sunday, although it may take another week to get it up and running. More information on this in the next couple of days.
As well as being live on our website the livestream also goes to our Kerith Youtube channel, where previous Sundays also get archived. It would be a huge help to us if you could subscribe to the channel, as if we can get 1,000 subscribers (we currently have just over 200) Youtube will guarantee to add subtitles to the livestream within an hour of it being posted. This will hugely help our deaf community, although we are also investigating how we add a professional signer to the video stream (this may take us a couple of weeks to work out).
We will also produce a Good Friday meeting which will have a different look and feel to our regular Sunday meetings. Again I'll give more information on this when we have it.
It is possible for small groups to continue to meet virtually. There are at least two free tools which can allow us to do this.
The first is Google Hangouts. This is free and allows up to 10 people to be connected in a video chat where you can all see each other and everyone can speak. Pete Moon used this last night for the Bereavement Course and reported that it worked well.
The second is Zoom. There is a free version of this which allows you to do a group video call for up to 40 minutes, after which you can just set up another call. There is also a version which costs £12 a month, which doesn't have the 40 minute limit and may well be worth investing in.
It would be great to hear feedback from anyone who tries these, or any other solutions, so we can share what we're learning.
Helping One Another
I know some will be daunted by all this technology and have no idea how to access all these different tools. However, I also know that many of us are keen to use our gifts to help others at this time. Perhaps for some of us that might mean helping those who would otherwise struggle to get connected. As an example Catrina and I have set up an old iPad to help Catrina's parents stay connected with their children and grandchildren over the next few months. Perhaps you could do the same, either by setting up software on existing devices and giving instruction on how to use it, or by lending people devices you can do without.
I hope this is helpful. Let's do all we can to keep connected, and keep sharing ideas on the best ways to do that.