Zoom Liturgy of the Word addresses congregation anxiety

Zoom Liturgy of the Word

A short text message and some creative thinking have opened the door to an entirely lay-led Zoom Liturgy of the Word.

The move in the former Newtown and Island Bay parishes, now Wellington South parish, helps the community keep connected when parishioners are unable or anxious about coming to Mass.

Essentially as a service of the Word, it builds on familiarity but is not pretending to be something that it’s not, Eucharist at a distance or Eucharist where participants watch a select few gather around the table to eat and drink.

The Zoom Liturgy of the Word is also a live event and not recorded, so to participate people have to be there.

“In some ways, it’s more transparent than Mass, everyone sees you and it’s more difficult to sneak in unnoticed if you’re late”, a somewhat embarrassed parishioner told CathNews.

Another described the Zoom Liturgy of the Word as a “well-planned, and a liturgically and spiritually nourishing journey.”

“We have been delighted by the creative initiatives that have arisen and the way the risen Lord has used these to bestow his graces.” – NZ Catholic bishops.

The idea came from a parish meeting that heard parishioners, even when locked down, wanted to be together spiritually but without the social anxiety of being inside at church.

So having identified the need, organisers designed something familiar, but lay-led.

On average around 60 parishioners participated.

“The opportunity for a group of believers to pray together is marvellous; the long term impact of this is yet to be seen, says Joe Grayland, author, liturgist and Doctor of Theology specialising in Liturgy and Sacramental Theology.

He describes the Zoom Liturgy of the Word as a significant development in Catholic worship.

“There is a democratisation of worship through the work of many people and there is community between those gathering. Both of these are important because they reorient worship as we ordinarily experience it on Sundays”, he says.

Embarking on the process brought forward a range of gifts and talents among the parishioners, which organisers say it is akin to the Early Church.

They say the feedback has been very positive and, in particular, people have mentioned the well-prepared reflections on the Sunday readings.

“We enjoyed working together and improving each week in a safe, non-judgemental environment” a participant told CathNews.

“The liturgy was prayerful, inclusive, welcoming and non-threatening”, another said.

“God always provides for His people. The sacraments, which are the primary communicators of the life of God within the Church, are not the origin of grace, nor do they have a monopoly on it. God is the origin of all grace and God freely chooses to reward virtue, good intentions and actions.” – NZ Catholic bishops.

Grayland endorses tools such as Zoom that can serve a community well by keeping it together in prolonged periods of lockdown, traffic light status, and vulnerability. However he says such tools are still in their infancy and have their limits.

“They work well in meeting formats but a little less so anywhere there are simultaneous multiple participants.”

Grayland says online conversation tools like Zoom are particularly good at one-at-a-time interaction, but their current limitations are restrictive when for example they are used for communal singing and praying.

“The group cannot literally pray as one in each other’s hearing or presence – because if everyone talks together on Zoom it’s just noise.

“The only way ‘communal’ prayer works is when everyone except the leader is on mute,” says Grayland.

“The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men (sic) can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: “How then are they to call upon Him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15).” – Sacronsanctum Concilium No 9.

The liturgy group plans to further enhance parish life now parishioners have had a taste of coming together “as one”.

The plans also include providing Catechesis, liturgical formation and technical Zoom-host training.

The group is also keen to expand the group of parishioners who can participate in making the liturgies work next time there’s a lockdown, red traffic light or when people feel vulnerable.

The organising group says that one of the ‘in real life’ things the initiative highlights is the need to update the parish Census and contact information.

The Zoom Liturgy of the Word initiative received the endorsement of Wellington South parish priest Fr Doug Shepherd.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

Tags: , , , , ,