Fanlobbus Union of Parishes in West Cork – Dunmanway, Drimoleague, Drinagh and Coolkelure – will mark the anniversary of part of its online response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of church buildings for public worship, on Sunday 21st March.
The rector of Fanlobbus, the Reverend Cliff Jeffers, has invited the Bishop of the Diocese, Dr Paul Colton, to do an interview with him online about the past year.
On 22nd March 2020, the parish went online using ZOOM, Facebook and using other technology they already had. In time, this was augmented by a grant from emergency funding provided to each Church of Ireland diocese by the Church of Ireland Priorities’ Fund and the Representative Church Body.
Before the coronavirus pandemic 87% of parishes in Cork, Cloyne and Ross were not using technology to broadcast their Sunday Services online; the proportion which now are online has increased from 13% to 64%.
Parishes have been encouraged to pool resources and to work together. In other parishes, often where there is poor broadband or fewer parishioners with access to the internet, materials for Sunday worship are posted or hand-delivered by the clergy and teams of volunteers to households. Links to what is available online feature on the Diocesan Website HERE
That is something reflected in Fanlobbus Union also where a number of parishioners take part each Sunday using their telephones, and a copy of the Order of Service is supplied to them. When church buildings reopened for public worship last summer the parish connected the building to the internet and the Services from the church continued to be broadcast online. When Cliff took a short holiday in September, parishioners were invited to join the Service broadcast from St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, online.
Bishop Colton said:
This is one example of the many responses of many types – traditional and using technology – called into action in Cork, Cloyne and Ross in response to the uncharted territory that is the coronavirus pandemic. The clergy, lay church workers and volunteers in this Diocese have all been working really hard in response to this crisis. One year on, I wrote yesterday to everyone to thank them (see HERE) As Bishop of the Diocese I am hugely grateful for what everyone has been doing so faithfully and creatively.
The Reverend Cliff Jeffers and the team involved in all of this in Fanlobbus Union of Parishes have opted for an interactive type of online broadcast to gather the people together. Cliff explains:
We have had 40 interviews in the last year from people from West Cork and all around the world who are connected to Dunmanway and West Cork to hear how Covid-19 is affecting them and what is happening in their lives. Each week, the on-line community are invited to send in photographs of what they are doing and are also given a specific theme to take or find photos to link in with the sermon.
Two of our online team are live with the Facebook comments, welcoming the people as they log in and responding to comments and questions during the services.
Before ordination, Cliff was an engineer, and so he is very interested in the technical aspects of all this too, including the statistical outcomes as well as the human and the spiritual side of what is being offered. Recently he explained some of the analysis he and the team have done:
We have had over 500,000 minutes of viewing of our online services over the last year. An average of 143 live views each week, Average of 9550 minutes per week (services are on average 54 minutes long), with another 20% watching later on Sunday and 10% more during the following 7 days. Our research shows that each device has on average 2.6 viewers. 80% of our Facebook views are from people in County Cork.
But it is the human side of all this that is most important, emphasises, Cliff:
One of the very positive aspects of being online is it has increased the accessibility of over services. Some older parishioners who have not been able to attend or participate in services are tuning in each week and some of the local community are ‘attending’ our services, who might never attend in-person on a Sunday morning.