October 14, 2020

Disruption Stories: The Unchurched Spouse

Charlotte and Nigel performing pre-recorded lectionary readings from her living room.

Charlotte, a senior woman, is a lector in her church. With the doors of the church closed for this Covid season, each week she prepared a pre-recorded lectionary reading from her living room. She recorded it on her iPhone and sent it to the vicar to be included as part of the overall pre-recorded service. 

You might think a 60-something would be intimidated or incapacitated by the technology challenge of using a smartphone and sending an mp3 file. But, quite the contrary, she was quite at home with it. Only one thing vexxed her: without a tripod, she found it difficult to set up the iPhone to get a good shot. She would balance it against some books to get a good background, proper lighting and a good angle to frame her as she was reading. She would approximate a good shot, do the recording, and then watch the video, only to over and over again see that something was wrong in the shot. Each week’s reading took several tries before she had something worthy of sending. 

After a couple of weeks of watching this runaround, Nigel, her non-churchgoing husband of 40-plus years volunteered to serve as cameraman. Holding the camera steady, and vouching for the lighting and framing and background, he helped turn a somewhat frustrating exercise into an enjoyable mutual endeavor.  

What’s more, now that the husband had some ownership of the video asset, he actually looked forward to watching it as part of the full church production. Each week, he sat with his wife on the couch and went to church!  

In fact, after a month or two, he ventured even further. He suggested that perhaps he himself could do the reading, and his wife could operate the camera. After 40 years of sitting at home while his wife went to church, this man has become part of the church body.

This story comes to us from our friend and advisor, Rev Dr Pete Phillips, Director of the Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University.