Pandemic prompts technological changes at St. Peter's

Sep 7, 2020

Since the onset of the pandemic, places of worship all over Dartmouth have had to adjust aspects of ministry, with many making the shift to online worship.

In recognition of this new reality, Rev. Scott Ciosek of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is turning from the question of how to adapt to the pandemic toward what the long-term future of worship looks like.

“Just streaming on Facebook, we were seeing people tune in from all over the country,” Ciosek said. “We have to think about how we are going to hold this community together and continue our work of reaching new people.”

When St. Peter’s first began its Sunday live streams in March, the only tools used were an iPhone and a tripod. Now, the church has a new system that will include around a dozen new angles and run all day. 

“This is a great way to reach out to those who feel isolated,” he said.

Parishioners are also excited about the new system. 

Church treasurer Mark Henningar said he views this investment as an example of how the church continues to respond and adapt to the changing world.

“The message and mission does not change, just the means by which we reach out to the community,” Hennigar added.

The pastor recalled a young woman who had “been away from any kind of church” come across one of the streams and that her interest in faith was “resparked” and planned to take her family to the Padanaram church after it reopens for in-person worship.

“I thought that was super cool,” Ciosek said.  

He added he hopes to host limited in person mass by early October, with those who cannot attend continuing to watch the streams online — something the pastor compared to hybrid schooling. 

According to initial plans, the Ciosek said attendance would likely be below the state’s 40% capacity, with assigned seats reserved ahead of time, among other proposed changes.

“There’s a lot of guidelines we need to follow,” Ciosek said. “We’re just looking at how we can do that in the safest way possible — which we think we can do.” 

What is certain, Ciosek said, is that online streams will continue after there’s an available vaccine. The pastor added this shouldn't be a substitute for in-person worship, but instead as a tool to get people interested in faith.

“We, as human beings, are meant for community and not to be hiding behind screens,” Ciosek said. “We just want people to come if they can do so safely.”