Edinburgh church congregation grows under lockdown

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

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image captionThe church says online services have been reaching 8,000 people

A virtual congregation set up during the coronavirus lockdown has caused an Edinburgh church's numbers to be eight times their normal size.

St Paul's and St George's Church in York Place has been reaching more than 8,000 people during each online service.

Associate rector the Reverend Libby Talbot said people were looking to the church during what they felt was a "hopeless time".

She said their Easter Sunday service, which took 20 hours to edit, would be even more "massive".

The Scottish Episcopal church, which has a predominantly young congregation of about 1,000, normally sees between 500 and 600 people at Sunday services.

However on Sunday 22 March its virtual service was watched live 4,300 times giving a reach of more than 8,000.

image captionLibby Talbot says online services send a message of hope

Each Sunday during the lockdown there have been three virtual services but on Easter Sunday there was just one at 11:00.

Ms Talbot said people who did not normally visit the church were now "engaging and viewing" the online services.

She said: "Life feels so helpless and chaotic just now and people feel out of control.

"Christianity is built on a solid foundation and gives real hope during this period of hopelessness and uncertainty.

"People are thinking just now about what the future holds and so are looking to the church.

"People also have more time just now and so are exploring - a service online is a low threatening way to do this."

image captionLike other churches, the physical church is closed to the public

She added that filming the service in advance would mean they would all have a rare Easter Sunday off with it being the first in 30 years for rector the Reverend Dave Richards.

She said it would mean they had more time to spend with their families. She said she would also phone about 25 people in the congregation who were medical professionals and a couple of people who had coronavirus but who were doing well.

She added it had taken a great effort to make the online services and that they had all worked on adapting their skills.

She said: "For example our facilities and production manager Jamie Woods has re-skilled and is now focussing on editing and production of the films and our worship director has been doing the music.

"It's been really interesting to see how well these films have been received now that we have moved virtually."

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