Durham Cathedral is celebrating the one year anniversary of its online community, which developed following the cathedrals decision to livestream daily services on Facebook at the start of the UK’s first lockdown.
Durham Cathedral was among the first cathedrals to livestream its daily services on Facebook as the UK went in to lockdown in early 2020, and six months later launched a Community of Prayer to support and foster the growing community of loyal online worshippers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, close-knit communities of worshippers became familiar with congregating virtually on livestreams of services, and remarkably, the community has continued to thrive as congregations returned to churches, with around 500 people still regularly connecting with the cathedral’s live-streamed services.
Canon Charlie Allen, the member of clergy who established the Community of Prayer, says about its formation, “As the names of those commenting on livestreamed services became familiar and people started getting to know one another online, together we saw an opportunity to build a community with Durham Cathedral’s rhythm of prayer as its heart, regardless of geographic distance.”
Earlier this week, an online service to mark the first year of Durham Cathedral’s Community of Prayer took place to celebrate the success of this unique project which brings together Christians from across the world.
The community, currently 370 members strong, exists to nurture people on their journey of faith through online worship and virtual gatherings, and is designed to complement experiences with members’ local church communities. Many members, who come world-wide from Australia, Finland, Canada and the Philippines as well as places closer to home in County Durham, have expressed a strong sense of ‘belonging’ to Durham Cathedral that has endured over the past year.
Canon Allen, who gave an address at Monday’s anniversary service, continues, “The community has gone from strength to strength over the past year, with new members joining every day. Durham Cathedral’s online and physically gathered communities are equally treasured. There is crossover between the groups which allows people to maintain their worshipping habits as their circumstances change, including those who would normally join us in person but are now housebound, and students who split time between home and university.”
Anne Robertson from Gateshead is pursuing a life in ministry and has been a member of the Community of Prayer since it first began. She says, “The members of the Community of Prayer have been massively supportive over the past year, not only as regards my journey into ministry, but also over this summer when my Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away a few short weeks later.”
Members of the community are encouraged to support each other on the journey of faith, and pledge to follow the cathedral’s daily rhythm of online worship. The Community also offers frequent online Quiet Days which encourage participants to reflect on a given theme, and virtual gatherings and online spaces for connecting with members.
Durham Cathedral looks forward to a bright future for the Community of Prayer and its live streaming of services. Many cathedrals dialed down their livestreams when in-person worshipping was able to return, whereas Durham Cathedral saw the value it brought to digital audiences. Members have spoken about how much they value friendly encouragement by fellow pilgrims on the way of faith. Despite the suffering and hardship endured by so many during the pandemic, the Community of Prayer’s story is one of the joy and hope of its members.