Zoom On to Keep Connecting
First Published in Wesley Tidings in April 2020
A “Kiasu” Small Group Member
It might perhaps not be too far off to hazard a guess that I might well be the most “kiasu” small group member in zone 10.
Way back in February 2020, while everyone else was still meeting physically, I had already informed my small group leaders that I would attend my small group meetings only on zoom even though I was a novice on that platform. That was more than a month before the church advisory came out to discourage, and subsequently suspend all small group physical meetings.
Meeting through Video Conferencing
Having tried out various communications tools in my other meetings, I had suggested to my small group leaders that I would use zoom to meet them virtually, right after the Chinese New Year. As zoom didn’t quite work out the first time I joined my small group meeting virtually, we switched to whatsapp video call. There were some technical hiccups.
Still, I would say we were off to a good and new start.
The second session of my video chat with my small group had gone better for us. However, I had an earful from my husband after the session as my small group member had used up his entire monthly data plan on his tablet to connect to zoom for my sake.
We learnt early on it is vital to have a good internet connection to have successful zoom meetings.
By the third video chat session I had with my small group, the church advisory was already out, in line with government safety management measures. It was clear everyone had no choice by then, but to meet virtually.
As I had hosted a few zoom meetings prior to that, I valiantly volunteered to host the first zoom meeting for everyone in my small group. Preparations are vital prior to the zoom meeting, and I enlisted the help of a friend and my daughter to practise with me a few functions, such as insertion of videos and breakout rooms. For added security, I used the password and waiting room functions.
It was nice to be able to see everyone’s faces at the same time on the screen during our zoom time. It did make me listen attentively to what my friends are sharing and concentrate better.
“With zoom, we tend to be more focused on the discussion topics and go off the tangent less,” said Jeanne Cheng, one of my small group members.
Although we had hit a couple of technical glitches during our first session as a group, we managed to get through our opening prayer, worship via you tube as well as a robust discussion on the book we are studying together. We even tried to recite Psalm 23 together on zoom.
A very positive change that has come out of our online small group meetings is we are now much more focused on the study resources. Being a foodie group, we were previously naturally often quite excited about the food when we met physically. We could only focus exclusively on the spiritual food, for now.
Undeterred by Technology
The average age of my small group is well above 50. We are, what my teenage daughter would call, a group of boomers (a term used to describe people born in 1946 to 1965).
Some of us have not used video conferencing before. There are many things to be learnt from ground zero. Coming together to learn and embrace a new technology together can be a bonding activity in itself.
It was important for my group to know that we don’t have to get everything right at every meeting. It is okay to fumble and circumnavigate the first couple of times. We learnt together as we went along. Those of us who are more experienced in this would help the ones who are new to the video conferencing game.
The key here is not to be deterred by technology. Our desires for fellowship and community can bring us together in Jesus even when we experience glitches or have to change our mindset about doing church and small groups.
More importantly, we have to intentionally treat online small group meetings or church worship services with the same respect and reverence – respect for one another in our community and reverence to God.
The Covid-19 crisis has compelled many of us to use various communications tools to connect to our church and its community. Many might be sceptical of a video chat app’s ability to replace an actual face-to-face meeting.
But when we reflect on the realities of the current situation, I am sure many of us would be very thankful that we could still have the means to come together and commune on a spiritual level.
Thank God for His Goodness
We give thanks for God’s provision that most of us could still have good access to wifi at home and equipment like computers, hand phones and headsets that enable us to continue meeting virtually.
One of the changes that have emerged from the Covid-19 crisis is the general perception that a church community must be connected through physical commune and our fellowship must include food and socializing, in the typical Singapore “fellowship equals fei-loship” context.
The contactless measures of the crisis have changed all that. It begs the question how we could still continue to be community to one another when we are unable to meet physically temporarily, when we are unable to socialize or eat physically together.
This is a good time for us to take stock of what really matters to our community and us spiritually.
As my small group member, Jeanne said: “We have to check on those who do not have a small group to connect with or the right resources to meet their community online. Let us continue to connect with one another and continue to spur one another to grow in the Lord and be transformed in Christ-likeness as we foster community virtually, through this challenging season.”