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COVID19/OnlineChurch Research Outputs

Centre Director, Pete Phillips, was invited to address a web consultation with the College of Bishops of the Church of England to explore the theme of how virtual connection affects relationships. Also joining the consultation was Aleks Krotoski, presenter of the BBC podcast "Being Human". Pete's presentation focussed on some theological and ecclesiological background which point to the frequent use of distanced/virtual/non-physical relationship within Christian faith. This suggests that Christianity is well placed to explore digitality and the world of online relationships.

Online Church Research Group Highlights


Read the paper: Exploring "Virtual Connection" and "Relationships"

Press Release

Today the Online Church Research Group released some highlights around faith-related activities during the pandemic drawn from polling data commissioned from Savanta ComRes. The research highlighted:

  • London is the faith capital of the UK
  • 1 in 4 people engaged in online organised worship during the summer of 2020
  • Over half of young people (aged 18-34) regularly engage in online prayer and worship activity

Read the press release: Offline and Online Religious Activity in the UK during Lockdown and Post-Lockdown

The Online Church Research Group includes Dr Peter Phillips, Professor Pete Ward, Professor Alexandra Cristea and Mr Tahir Aduragba.

The Emerging Hybrid Church in Eire and Northern Ireland


Press Release

Centre Director, Pete Phillips summarises a research report on the Irish churches' response to the COVID10 crisis. A month or so ago, Gladys Ganiel and her team at Queen’s University Belfast published a great piece of research exploring faith leaders’ response to the COVID19 pandemic and their reflections of how religion was fairing Ireland (in this article this will mean both Eire and Northern Ireland) during the crisis. The complete report is available online.

Centre Director Pete Phillips was invited to include a chapter in Heidi Campbell's ebook on reflections on the Distanced Church. The book was produced from scratch in 30 days and is available for free download.

Campbell, Heidi (2020). The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online. Available electronically from Texas A&M University Libraries.

Pete's chapter is chapter 24: Enabling, Extending and Disrupting Religion in the Early COVID19 Crisis

Religion in Quarantine

Having already released one free ebook from 30 practitioners and scholars called the Distanced Church, Digital Religion scholar-extraordinaire, Heidi Campell has now released a second ebook. Religion in Quarantine: The Future of Religion in a Post-Pandemic World, is an eBook collection of essays written by religious studies faculty and graduates students from Texas A&M University - each essay looks a how religions and religious communities might change as a result of the pandemic.

Well done, everyone, for this great resource.

Heidi's Network for Religion, Media and Digital Culture Scholarship is well worth following.

Reflecting Theologically on Online Worship Services

Jonas Kurlberg has written a theological reflection on Online Worship Services on Medium:

"In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a boom in online services as thousands of churches around the world are turning to digital solutions in order to continue their regular worship. I suspect that most of us have been inundated with invitations on our social media feeds to join live-streamed services these last weeks..."

Read more: Reflecting Theologically on Online Worship Services

The Issues around Online Communion

On Medium, Pete published an article exploring the issues around Online Communion and providing a list of resources and liturgies:

"In the last couple of months, the Church has gone online with panache! So much creativity, so much hard work, so much good community being developed for those in lockdown across a large portion of the earth — first in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, more recently in Australasia, Europe, Africa, the Americas. Though church buildings have closed, the Church and her proclamation of God's love..."

Read more: Bread and Wine Online? Resources and Liturgies for Online Communion

A Pilgrimage Towards the Golgotha

Matthew Pulis, a graduate of the MA in Digital Theology, reflected on the Pope's Urbi et Orbi event on Medium:

"As the Bishop of Rome walked by himself in the empty square of the Vatican, the world stopped. It stopped because the human heart felt for that old frail man struggling to walk in the adverse weather making his way up to the seat to celebrate a liturgy in the same square, from the same passage, which normally would have seen him flooded (and even pulled) by people to grab his attention..."

Read more: A Pilgrimage to the Golgotha

Digital Church - Where Contemporary Culture Meets God

Pete Phillips published a blog post prior to the COVID outbreak exploring online church:

"Coronavirus seems to have given the concept of online church an even bigger boost than it already had. We’ve been hearing from friends in Singapore and Hong Kong and, especially China that churches are being asked NOT to meet in person in order to minimise COVID-19 infection. Instead, churches are broadcasting services, prayer meetings, bible studies..."

Read more: Digital Church - Where Contemporary Culture Meets God

Community, Community, Community

Pete Phillips has been blogging on both Medium and the Premier Digital Blog.

When churches first started live-streaming, Pete wrote a blog advocating a community model rather than a broadcast model and giving some tips on creating worship online...The image of the vine represents the community which forms the body of Christ, the Church, in John 15...

Read more: Community, Community, Community

COVID19 and the Online Church

Pete published an update on his thinking around Online Church during the COVID19 Crisis:

"Yesterday, I had the joy of leading a postgraduate seminar at Wesley House in Cambridge for the Postgrad Tutor there, Dr Andrew Stobart. When the students headed into breakout rooms in Zoom, Andrew and I began to discuss the new phenomenon of online expressions of church and the varying patterns what we had seen. The seminar was based on a lecture I wrote sometime ago published in Holiness Journal: Wesley's Digital Parish

Read more: COVID19 and the Online Church

The Church (has gone) Online

Also on Medium, Pete published an article exploring some key texts in the multi-decade existence of research around the Online Church

"First of all, congratulations to all those churches up and down the breadth of the country whose pastors, ministers and lay-people have stepped out of their comfort zones (and certainly out of the offline church zone) and set up online expressions of Church over the last two weeks. You are all marvellous...Many have seen increased congregations... Many have experienced ... growth... Many have felt the presence of their God online."

Read more: The Church (has gone) Online

Is the Church Growing Online?

Pete Phillips also wrote a two-part piece for the Religion Media Centre on approaches to Online Church Research and an exploration of church growth through online viewing:

From the start of the coronavirus lockdown, churches in England have gone online. Of course, this is nothing new and the process of digital innovation has been comprehensively mapped by academics, including Heidi Campbell and Christopher Helland.

Read more: Is the Church Growing Online?

Methodists Worship Online @ Easter

Pete also produced an archiveable list of a relatively small sample of Methodist engagement with online Church over the Easter period, 2020.

"It's brilliant to see that churches great and small have taken to digital so well and so creatively. I put out a call on Facebook the other day for fellow Methodists to let me know their service times and look what came in - lots of examples of great worship for you to join in and give praise to God this Easter..."

Read more: Methodists Worship Online @ Easter

Coronavirus-spreading churches: Bad Theology has Tragic Circumstances

Pete wrote this reflection on why some churches are seen as problematic contagion zones for the virus, for Premier's Apologetics Blog.

The other day I was asked by a journalist about whether I thought churches were a particular problem for COVID19 infection. I was taken aback by the question because my own assumption was that the church in the UK was doing a fantastic job of going online...

Read more: Coronavirus-spreading churches: Bad Theology has Tragic Circumstances

Outreach Work

As part of our outreach work, we are working with both Premier Media and Sanctuary First. In both instances, we are taking part in series of webinars. For Premier you can see the first seminar here. The title of the series is "From Survival to Revival" and Centre Director, Pete Phillips, is the host of the whole series. For the Sanctuary First series, Pete has been working with the team there to develop the resources alongside Sandy Forsyth from New College at Edinburgh University.

The Dangers and Pitfalls of Digital Theology

Deputy Director the Cente, Jonas Kurlberg, led a webinar for Colombo Theological Seminary looking at the dangers and pitfalls of Digital Theology.

Dr Kurlberg used to work at the Seminary and developed their excellent Masters programme while there.

Looks like Jonas even managed to move onto the lovely subject of Online Communion.


The Impact of the COVID19 Pandemic on the Church

In this webinar, John Drane and Centre Director, Pete Phillips, explored the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the Church. John's exploration of the impact of the pandemic on ordinary spirituality is a core learning point for Digital Theology.

Many thanks to James Nored for facilitating this webinar series at Austin Graduate Seminary.

Click the video link - it's on James' personal zoom space so not sure how long it will be there.

What's God Up To?

Digital Theology is often called a contextual theology - a theology in which we explore the context in which we live and move and have our being and in which too we look for the activity of God - signs of God's presence in a kind of lived religion. In this article on Medium, Centre Director, Pete Phillips, explores the signs of the times and argues for a God on mission, a God caring for the world, a God reaching out to to the vulnerable.

Read more: What's God Up To?

Digital Church during the pandemic: A (technical) HowTo


Here, MA Graduate, Matthew Pulis, offers a technical "How To" exploring the possibilities of the OBS software package.

Matthew's a former digital games designer, and a catholic priest, and lives in Malta! I think he probably prefers that to be listed differently!

And hopefully a PhD student working with the Centre for Digital Theology.

Read more: Digital Church How To