[This letter was abridged from a longer original, which you can find at: https://westernfriend.org/letters-marchapril-2022]
I am responding to Friend Anna Fritz’s article in the January/February 2022 issue, expressing her misgivings about online and hybrid worship. I have had a very different experience over the past 22 months. This form of worship is not the same one that we have all cherished over the years. I believe we may be seeing the birth of something new and different, an expression of our continuing revelation.
After Boulder Meeting closed its meetinghouse in March 2020, a Friend suggested we meet for worship via Zoom videoconferencing. Early on, worship felt a bit awkward online, as we got used to seeing each other’s faces in little boxes. But we were grateful to find a way to gather in silence together. And we were joined by visitors from around the world, as well as other beloved Friends who had stopped coming to Meeting before the pandemic.
Some Friends in our meeting have still never joined us online. Some tried, but found it hard to settle in, feeling they couldn’t go as deep. Most of us, however, have grown more comfortable with the process. We have found our worship deepening and widening with the inclusion of many Friends who had been left out of worship before. We found that attendance at business meetings prospered, and our committees found Zoom a safe way to continue to meet.
Eventually we reopened our meetinghouse, with masking and vaccine mandates in place. But in-person attendance was still too high-risk for some, so we drew up plans for hybrid/blended worship. Now, between in-person attendance (20) and online attendance (40), we have a similar number of worshippers as before the pandemic.
I feel that our experiences have not been detrimental to corporate worship, but instead are complimentary. We have not replaced our previous manner of worship, but expanded it, becoming broader in our outreach and inclusiveness. Deep and genuine ministry now rises in both in-person and online voices.
Our use of virtual technology is no longer an emergency measure. Our meeting is committed to continuing this form of worship – to welcome the widest participation, to sweep away impediments to worship for all. I hope most of us will eventually be able to return to in-person worship in the meetinghouse. But I am grateful for this opportunity to connect our community in a new way.
– Rebecca Morris, Boulder Friends Meeting (IMYM)