THE Reverend Dr Desiree Snyman live streamed the Easter Sunday service inside an empty St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church this morning, as the parish watched on from their homes amid coronavirus restrictions.
“I felt quite tearful that I was doing it alone. Preparing the service, it’s not only the climax in terms of our liturgy – we’ve been preparing for this moment for six weeks through the period of lent – but also in terms of being part of the community,” said Rev Dr Snyman.
“It’s just such a joy to be with others. This is the only way for us to connect – hopefully at a meaningful and possibly even deeper level.”
“We’ve been saying for years that church is not a building. It’s the people gathering with concern, love and prayer. “
St Bartholomew’s has stood in Alstonville for more than a century, with some families having attended the church for several generations.
Rev Dr Snyman’s husband, Marius Mulder, led the housebound parish in several hymns, and Jenny Noble, who has attended St Bartholomew’s for 20 years, led the readings.
By live streaming the services rather than prerecording, the community was able to interact with the reverend in real time throughout the service.
As she is speaking, Rev Dr Snyman can see messages popping up on the screen from those who are tuning in at that moment.
“I’ve tried a lot of things, and I’ve got myself quite stressed trying to learn all the latest technology,” she said.
“It does reduce that feeling of alienation. People were tuning in and just saying ‘I’m here’ or coming up with jokes. Slighting disruptive, but heartening, nonetheless.”
For Rev Dr Snyman, ensuring that older members of the community were kept in the loop was a challenge that she has worked tirelessly to overcome.
“Other organisations can choose one platform and stick to it, but because of our diversity, we’ve got to have a range of technologies. Our range is Instagram, Facebook, the website, and we’ve got people who receive emails but can’t get online,” she said.
“So, once a week we produce a bulletin and all the liturgy that I used today is emailed to everyone in the parish.
“So, if you can’t get on to Facebook, and some people choose not to, you’ve got the liturgy.
“We’ve been conscious to include to whole gamut of our congregation.”
Printed material is also hand-delivered to families who do not use email.
Since coming to St Bartholomew’s in 2017, Rev Dr Snyman has modernised her sermons and communicated Biblical stories to the community through a modern lens.
“The contribution that I bring to the church is that I try to weave together an interpretation of ancient texts with modern paradigms,” she said.
“So, I use movies, this morning it was a song – (the use of modern technology) is just an extension of that for me.
“The real challenge is telling the ancient stories in a way that is relevant to current audiences.”