Few institutions have been affected more by COVID-19 than churches. With older congregations, hymn books and communion, most churches have had to close their doors.

But St Paul’s Anglican Church in Knowlton has been able to increase its ability to serve by going online. After lockdown in March of 2020, an online congregation of 5,000 people attended Easter service. How did this happen?

Like many things, this ability to shift how things were done was not a result of a plan but a product of a series of steps to improve the experience for parishioners.

The first steps had nothing to do with the online world but were made to help visitors follow the service in the church itself. Tim Wiebe installed screens on both sides that showed the service in both languages and included the hymns. In addition, to supplement the traditional small church organ, a digital organ was installed that could replicate the sound of several of the great cathedrals.

This was the foundation. Aided by Rugge Thompson and Justin Cuplinskas, the first livestream service was broadcast on March 17, 2017. It was the funeral of Sebby Call. So many wished to attend, that Wiebe felt that the only way he could accommodate the numbers was to extend the service online.

After that success, in July, Wiebe began to stream regular services. So, when the lockdown came, St Paul’s was ready. It is not only locals that participate but people from Hong Kong, Egypt, and all across Canada and parts of the U.S.

What’s next? “Post lockdown is not going to mean post digital,” said Wiebe, “With 2,000 people attending last Christmas and this Easter, the digital offering is meeting a need that the church as a building could not serve.”