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BANNER Here with you b
The Power of Zoom

An article by Rev. Wendy Sellers that appeared in our parish magazine, February 2021

Wendy Sellers 150718When the first Lockdown started in March, it was only a week or so later thatwe started our first Zoom live on-line services. Initially this was a Sunday service with Rev Alan as both Zoom host and PowerPoint slide operator, as well as priest. As Alan had no prior experience of this, I’ve no idea how he did it.

As it became apparent that Lockdown was going to be with us for months, it also became obvious that Zoom was working really well for us. We soon agreed that we preferred it to pre-recorded services (where it can feel you are ‘watching’ a programme) or live-streaming from the church (with ministers and people united in the need to ‘stay at home’). Pretty soon we had added in a Wednesday morning traditional Eucharist, Meditation and Mindfulness on a Wednesday evening and Compline on a Sunday evening.

We had our difficulties to overcome – in particular live music just doesn’t work well on Zoom which is designed for a single spoken voice. Our musicians tried valiantly to overcome this, but the answer seems to be that Zoom only tolerates pre-recorded music. Some people struggled to access the technology and hours were spent (mainly by Jane and Alan Cohen) coaching people on how to use Zoom and also working out how to join services using a phone line. We also realised that we wanted to offer the chance of fellowship after our Eucharists, using what Zoom calls Breakout Rooms.

By this point Kath Oates and Nick Hoyle had joined Jane Cohen, so that the hosting of main services could be done by someone other than the priest. The host not also moves the slides along, but controls who can join the service. A major task is ensuring people stay muted – Zoom will switch to the most recent speaker and that might well be the late-comer chatting to a family member! So muting is a big part of the job. Another challenge is that Zoom seems to work differently on each device and also is updated (that means changed!) very frequently.

When we were permitted to restart services in our buildings, we decided that the four Zoom services should continue to run (a decision which proved to be inspired, given we have now entered Lockdown three). That continuity has proved invaluable, even if it does present a huge challenge to provide ministers for all services at times when we have been running four Zoom services on top of our in-building services.

Even once the buildings reopened, many people chose to stay with ‘virtual’ church and the numbers attendingZoom logo remained high. Kath booked herself onto many, many on-line training sessions to ensure we got the best out of Zoom, and as a result our Zoom serviceshave got a lot slicker (and also a lot more complicated). In particular, it has remained challenging to offer good quality music. Helpful ‘Zoom for dummies’ guides have been written to assist the other hosts make use of its more complicated features. It is possible to make good use of both image and video and we have all seen that Zoom gives us the opportunity to be creative in ways that are much more difficult in our Victorian buildings.

Zoom is not just a way of sustaining our congregations through these difficult times but also offers a chance to reach out to those who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to attend physical church. One lovely thing is that our regular congregation on-line is quite widely spread geographically. What is evolving is not just church operating on-line, but ‘on-line church’ offering something different from an in-building experience and community.

If you thought it might be easier to provide a service on-line, let me disabuse you. It takes hours of preparation time beyond that of writing thesermon or intercessions. And as with services in the building, it necessitates people kindly giving up their own opportunity to worship to serve others. We are all hugely grateful to the Zoom team of Jane, Kath and Nick and are delighted Catherine Sleath is now joining the team, too. Meanwhile, Alan and I are going to get some training so that we can offer music and breakout rooms at services we host, such as Breathe monthly prayers.

Over Christmas our Zoom life was busier than ever. We had fortunately decided some weeks before that many of our regular services should be on Zoom. When half-way through our on-line Christmas social, Cheer and Carols, the Prime Minister announced changes to Christmas plans due to the worsening virus situation, we were fully prepared.

Cheer and Carols was followed by two sessions of Readings and Music for Christmas, the Christmas Eve Crib service, our only service on Christmas morning and a Christingle service, too. Together we have enjoyed hundreds of images, dozens of carols and the chance to admire one another’s festive attire. All from the comfort of our own homes. Each service provided all of us with a chance to worship ‘together while apart’. My mum and dad in Wales and my parents-in-law in Hemel Hempstead could join us for some of these, too. The joy of Zoom.

We do have plans and thoughts for new services and events on-line in the future, and all four current services will continue for some time. It is likely we will never go back tothe old ‘normal’ of sole reliance on the buildings. If you have any comments about our Zoom services, please send them to Alan or myself (Contact Us). And I’m sure you will join us in offering a huge ‘thank you’ to the Zoom team. To think that a year ago, few of us had heard of Zoom. Now we’re all wishing we’d bought shares!

Rev. Wendy Sellers

Hello and welcome to St Andrew's. If you are new, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit

A Warm Hello 

The following information is specifically for those planning a visit so that you know, beforehand, what to expect on a Sunday morning. During the period of Covid-19, please see the information at the bottom of this page.

Where and When

We meet at the Church Building (details below) for our main Sunday Service starting at 10.30am. For your first visit, we recommend arriving 10-15 minutes early to ensure you find a parking space and can settle in before the service begins. When you arrive, you should be greeted by someone on our Welcome Team who will be wearing a Welcome Badge.

Plan your journey:
Unfortunately, St Andrew's does not have its own carpark. However, there is a council-run pay and display carpark a short distance along St Andrew Street, to the east of the church - there is no charge for parking in this carpark on Sundays, but please check for charges on other days.

This is a useful East Herts Council website page for full details of parking in Hertford.

There are single yellow lines outside the church with parking restrictions, but some 30-minute parking bays are situated on the opposite side of the road for short stays (longer on Sundays).

Open Google Maps

Accessibility: There is wheelchair access, and a sound loop for anyone who needs it. Please let one of the Welcome Team know on your arrival and they will help you to get set up. There is a disabled toilet towards the back of the church, behind the kitchen.

Our Service

The service will usually begin promptly at 10.30am and will last between 60 and 75 minutes. We enjoy the presence of an excellent choir who help us sing hymns (modern and traditional) as well as provide anthems and special songs through the period of communion. We have a traditional organ but also benefit from music played on the piano and by our band (eg on the Second Sunday of each month when we have an All-Age Service in which our children and young people are fully involved).

Each 10.30am service includes a sermon, prayers and eucharist.

After the service, everyone is invited for coffee and conversation - some like to stay for a  quick chat while others remain in the church for a longer time.


Children and Young People

We have a great programme lined up for our children. This is organised by our Family, Children and Youth Worker, Tracy Plumpton, who is always delighted to welcome new faces. Those arriving before their first service at St Andrew’s can ask to see Tracy or one of the other leaders.

We really value worshipping God together as a family, so children stay with their parent or grown-up at the start of the service before being invited to leave for the age appropriate activities after the first hymn. You will need to go with your children to their groups and register them as part of our child safety policy.

The children and young people then return to the main service in time to join the eucharist and, if confirmed, take Holy Communion or, if not, receive a blessing.

There is a Children's Corner in church where you can go at any time. You will find books, toys and drawing materials there.

Toilet and baby-change facilities are located at the back of church, behind the kitchen.

Junior Church celebration

Getting Connected

Home Groups

While Sundays are a great way to meet new people, it is often in smaller gatherings that you can really get to know someone. Being part of one of our small groups allows you to make new friends, share together and support each other. We have a variety of groups that meet throughout the week. Check out Home Groups on our website and see if there’s one that you could join. Alternatively, speak to a member of the Welcome Team who will give you the information that you need.

Serving and Volunteering

If you want to get involved in the life of the church and help us make Sundays run smoothly, you can sign up to serve on a team. Please contact Phil in the Church Office.

What we describe above reflects our normal practice on Sunday mornings. However, since March 2020 we have had to adopt new ways of organising ourselves. For up-to-date information about current services (in church and online via Zoom), please look at details on our Worship and Prayer Page.
Get in touch with us
If you have any questions, please do get in touch. You'll find our contact details here.

We hope that you will feel at home at our church.