Tuesday evening. It’s been a long day….and it’s cold again.
Lent Group in the diary, mmm…
Ten to eight, put the kettle on. The living room is warm and cosy…outside the bitter east wind is blowing.
Five to eight, mug of tea, sit down, open my laptop.
And there, online, is Sarah, ready to start the Lent Group session.
During Lent this year I have been part of a group doing the Moving Mountains course online and it has been a really good experience. As we’ve looked at the story of Moses and thought about our hopes, then experiences, of Moving Mountains, instead of being with people in my own Mission Community, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with others from across the county and across the UK. One of the participants signed in from Scotland while away from Cumbria, another lives in Southend and was part of a visiting team for the mission weekend.
Technically, it was incredibly easy to set up on my laptop. Sarah and the other participants were visible, the audio was good so we could hear clearly and the session notes were on the screen. When small groups were needed, it was possible to set that up quickly with the facilitator able to ‘pop in’ to each group to see how we were getting on, or to post a ‘one minute left’ warning on our screens.. There are other options that we did not use such as chat boxes and polling.
One of the benefits of doing the course this way was that I felt very much part of the wider Moving Mountains picture, praying for different parts of the county, hearing the stories of events and encounters with God that were not on my doorstep. I met people I might never have met otherwise and enjoyed learning with and from them.
We all agreed that Sarah’s facilitation was excellent and she made sure that all had opportunity to share – the technique is slightly different when you’re not all in the same room. One person had been very reticent about the idea of an online group, but would definitely use it again. By being part of the group, the visiting team member was involved weeks before they arrived in Cumbria and it was a delight to hear their experience of the welcome, the positivity and the inspiration of the way people are working together in Cumbria as part of the God for All vision.
Would I be part of an online group again? Definitely. And I can see how this could be used more widely for meetings or learning or streaming services to the housebound. It’s not the same as being in the same room, but there are lots of advantages nonetheless, not least with the weather we’ve had this winter!
Author: Revd Elaine Bates
Ministerial Support Officer, CCL