It was 11.00am Sunday morning. We had just finished watching the virtual church service. “Are you going online for the congregational meeting”, Joan asked. I pondered on that question as I sipped on a cup of tea.
Congregational meetings have never been my thing. I have always thought they were to be avoided wherever possible. As for a zoom congregational meeting, Mmm! not sure about that. It came to 11.15am and my curiosity got the better of me. I zoomed in to hear a familiar voice. It was Bob welcoming everyone. “We have a quorum” he said. I could see 20 people on my screen and wondered where the rest were.
Tony announced that he could count 82 people. I could only see 20, but then I realised the faces kept changing. To my surprise, I spotted Jessica. Oh well, I guess if she has zoomed in, I could hang around for a bit. I figured with Bob and Tony in the driving seat, we were in trusted hands. Perhaps today would be a kind experience after all. I sat and watched, listened and in ways I had not expected, began to see all kinds of possibilities for the future.
Nate introduced us to a method of reaching consensus without cards. Initially, I thought this process a bit tricky, as I could not see everyone. Nate provided a simple electronic form which came up on my screen. Three circles on a form replacing three coloured cards. I could express my view as we moved towards consensus. Tony quickly sensed the mood of the meeting through the electronic response from those gathered on Zoom. The process was simple, easy to use, and managed by Tony. An important innovation going forward.
At the meeting Jessica spoke about an initiative with young people across the Synod. With Claire, young people and children have been Zooming with other young people around climate change. Tyler, Jessica, Jacinta, Amari, and Zara put together a video. It presented their message to the congregation on climate change.
The more I watched and listened, the more comfortable I became. This new form of gathering was well planned, inclusive, and we were being reminded there were 80 plus people gathered, even if I could only see 20 people on my screen. After lockdown, what will change? Can we provide a voice to those not previously listened too?
The technology on display last Sunday created many possibilities. Perhaps gathering in one place to conduct a congregation meeting as of pre coronavirus can no longer be supported. Coronavirus has forced us to explore and tap into existing technology to meet together, while physically distanced. We have been gifted with the opportunity to include everyone, no matter their age, physical ability or location. We have created an intergenerational meeting, a mix of different ages from different places. As we move forward, we can bring together old ways of meeting with new age technology.
Families keep in touch by Zoom. Children learn new skills through distance education to create a video on climate change. Consensus is achieved through an electronic card while physically separated. We have created a place, where those physically present can be joined seamlessly with those in distant places. All can be connected into and contribute actively to a congregational meeting, where children and the elderly are able to share their views, through video and recorded voice, without being confronted by a sea of faces, or being present in one place.
It is when we blend the gift of leadership with technology that we create an intergenerational meeting. It is only then, we as a faith community can be seen to value input from the smallest child, to the oldest within community.