Worship online – Dunedin, New Zealand

Congregations still connected

The Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis, dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin, reflects on new ways of...
Dunedin churches are using phones and some sophisticated social media initiatives to give help and share religious reflections in the fight against coronavirus, after services were suspended. The new dean of Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis, said the church was using social media, including Facebook and YouTube, to include people in worship. The ‘‘really good resources’’ on the cathedral’s website were also keeping people in touch, and spiritual reflections and services were being broadcast on social media.


In another ‘‘very exciting’’ development, a Christchurch firm had enabled a virtual walk through the cathedral to be provided for people who could not be physically present.

More information was available at stpauls.net.nz/explore, he said.

The Rev Michael Wallace, of All Saints Church, said 40 people had attended a service at the Dunedin North church last Sunday morning, but a further 1700 views of the event had since been made via social media.

Services would continue to be offered via social media, and although some people were taking the lockdown in their stride, some others were thinking ‘‘Oh, gosh, this is going to be hard work’’, he said.

The Rev Ed Masters, of First Church, said the congregation was keeping in touch, partly through social media, and he had already completed two podcasts, as part of wider links within the congregation, including phone calls to keep in touch.

In one of his podcasts, he said ‘‘into our locked-down world comes a prayer’’.

The Rev Ed Masters, of First Church of Otago, at his desk where he prepares podcast messages to...

The Rev Ed Masters, of First Church of Otago, at his desk where he prepares podcast messages to send to parishioners. PHOTO: SUPPLIED.

Mr Masters, who made the recordings at a makeshift desk, said ‘‘we are embarking on an unprecedented experience together’’.

‘‘Although our building is closed, our life as God’s people continues as we look out for each other, pray for one another and the world, and read the scriptures together.’’

Although members of the congregation were scattered around the city, it was fortunate that ‘‘we have so many different tools at our fingertips to keep us connected to one another including social media’’.

Fr Gerard Aynsley, of St Patrick’s Basilica, South Dunedin, said that although the basilica would be closed tomorrow, a morning service would be livestreamed on social media and people, including musicians, would contribute via links from 12 places in the city.

‘‘It’s nice to see everyone slow down,’’ Fr Aynsley said, and added that the church’s support networks were ‘‘working pretty well’’.

Big challenges were being faced in difficult times, but parishioners were generally connecting well, and were ‘‘contacting people and helping out’’.


The OTAGO DAILY TIMES offered this overview of Dunedin Churches that have set out to connect with parishioners this weekend.

We, in Christchurch, have our own online liturgies, too, which have been mentioned in the local media. However I, myself, was able – quite by chance while trying to log into my own parish podcast at St, Michael and All Angels, in an attempt to access the 10am Mass – to log in to a pre-recorded Mass for today (Passion Sunday, 29 March 2020) celebrated by Fr. Michael Wallace at All Saints Anglican Church, Dunedin. Considering the very few people involved, this was a very joyful service with encouragement from the preacher.

These podcast worship sessions are going to become a more important means of sharing worship with fellow Christians in the coming days and weeks of this COVID 19 lockdown

The theological concept of ‘Spiritual Communion‘ – where people are ministered to in a virtual situation, with personal access to the Sacred Elements of Holy Communion being no longer publicly available – will have to suffice for most of us. However, we can all look forward to the day when – post Coronavirus – we can all return to our Church buildings to gather in fellowship and physical Sacramental participation, in expectation of the signs from God of our Resurrection from the state of emergency that currently affects us.

Until that day, we can all pray for a speedy deliverance; being kind to each other and looking forward to a time of refreshment and renewal in our life with one another in God.

Prayers, and Blessings to ALL +

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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