by Matt Batten
Director of Communications and Engagement / Cyfarwyddwr Cyfathrebu ac Ymgysylltu
Diocese of Llandaff / Esgobaeth Llandaf
Carols by Zoomlight are replacing the traditional Carols by Candlelight services as churches in Cardiff adapt to increase in Covid cases.
Christ Church Roath began podcasting church services during the first lockdown. Their PodChurch podcast has become integral part of their mission and ministry.
Rev’d Trystan Hughes, Vicar at Christ Church Roath, says “Last weekend, with the new variant of Covid and with the Government’s advice to choose carefully what we do over the Christmas season, we even moved our big community carol service online."
“While it’s usually standing room only at our Carols by Candlelight service, the building was standing empty on Sunday night. But that doesn’t mean our community missed out on the beautiful singing of our choirs, uplifting readings, and the wonderful Christmas message of peace, hope, and goodwill to all. Instead, we brought them two special online carol services.
The first was Carols by Zoomlight, here we had screens full of smiling faces singing carols. The second was a wonderful Carols by Podlight, produced by a former BBC Radio 1 producer in our congregation. All the carols on this Podchurch release were recorded by our own church choirs. Our main soloist, congregation member Owen Hurrell, was even a finalist on this year’s BBC Chorister of the Year.”
Rev’d Trystan recognises the disappointment cancelling onsite Christmas services can be but believes online services can be equally uplifting and joyful.
“It was a hugely difficult decision to take the carol service away from the church, but we had large numbers who had booked to attend so we wanted to ensure people’s safety. Once the decision to go online was made, on zoom and on Podchurch, we were quickly able to move past the disappointment to providing joyful and uplifting services online, attended or accessed not only by those in our own community, but also many further away, including families from as far away as Germany.
“Meeting in our church building is such a joy and we have missed it hugely when the pandemic has meant we have cancelled in-person services, but this past 18 months has taught many of us churches that online services can also have a wonderful place in building community, widening access, offering hope, and helping people connect with God.”
Eglwys Dewis Sant have continued providing Welsh language online church services as a way of introducing the Christian faith to new Christians and connecting with current congregation:
“This is the second year for us to create an online carol service, and we are especially glad we did as the news of the spread of the omicron variant has made many people weary about coming to church once again, and not everyone is comfortable with congregation singing at present, says Fr Dyfrig Lloyd.
“The beauty of an online carol service is that people can safely sing at home, or simply listen to the singing and use the podcast in a way that nourishes their spiritual live and helps them to draw closer to God. It is also a way into to church life, especially for people who have lost connection with church or those who are exploring the Christian faith and who may feel uncertain and scared about entering a church building for worship for the first time.
“It is my prayer and hope that the podcasts allows people to experience something of the content and atmosphere of a normal church service in Eglwys Dewi Sant, and on that on their own terms. Carol services are a quintessential and traditional part of the run up to Christmas and to have the provision of an online carol service is a way of helping people to enter more deeply into the beauty and mystery of Christmas and coming to know the Word made flesh, lying in a manger.
“Earlier this year, when we returned to our church building to worship, we found that there were many who were still fearful of returning to the church building and the decision was taken to continue to provide online worship, and that need continues.
“We also found that by providing online services, many who have been unable to attend church because of ill-health for many years have once again been able to feel a part of Eglwys Dewi Sant’s worshipping community and we don’t want to lose this important spiritual provision and connection for those who cannot physically get to church.
“Also as all our services are in Welsh, the podcasts provide a useful worship resource for those who cannot access church services in Welsh not only in Wales, but beyond. And the great thing about a podcast, it can be listened to again!”
Interviews available in Welsh