Zoom Room enables collaborative study of The Story

After hearing the inspiring Diocesan Council presentation by Bishop Suffragan Jennifer Brooke-Davidson on churches reading through and studying The Story for one year, delegates from St. Andrew's, Corpus Christi; Our Savior, Aransas Pass; and St. Christopher's, Portland, were interested in engaging this Bible narrative and responding to Bishop David Reed's diocesan-wide challenge to read the Bible this year. However, the three churches, which make up the Coastal Bend Partnership led by the Rev. Beverly Patterson, canon missioner, did not have active Sunday school classes or weekly Bible study times.

zoom-room-set-up.jpgThe idea of a Bible study via video conference surfaced, and Patterson discovered the ability to make this happen with Zoom, an online platform for video conferences and virtual meetings. John Heard, member of St. Andrew's, took the reigns on the project, and with others assisting, the church created a "Zoom Room," outfitted with a 32-inch television, a computer, and a camera/microphone attachment.

"Zoom was easy to set up, and it's very easy to use. A good internet connection does help a lot," said Heard.

Congregants at Our Savior and St. Christopher's also gather and connect to the Zoom meeting with a laptop computer attached to a projector. "The goal is to create a dedicated Zoom Room at each church," said Patterson.

Each week during the new Sunday school hour, Patterson facilitates the study at the church she is serving that given morning. The session includes a YouTube video of an introduction to the chapter by Randy Freeze (editor), a summary of the chapter, discussion questions, and reflection questions for participants to consider at home. "All of this is from The Story curriculum," said Patterson. Many of the resources needed are on the diocesan website and can be found here.

Patterson arrives to church about 20 minutes early, logs in to Zoom, and has her cell phone ready for questions or assistance. Participants at the other two churches also log in using the same meeting code each week, and all together they view the introduction and work through the discussion questions. "We're having to learn to look at the camera, speak up, and wait our turn," said Patterson.

Some are able to participate from home. A member of Our Savior cannot come to church early because of the care she provides for various animals, so she logs in from her home computer and still makes it to church on time for Sunday's service.

From no active Sunday school to an interactive gathering on Sunday mornings, now 15 people are engaging in Bible study. "Before, reading the Bible may have seemed a bit intimidating, but we are enjoying doing this together. The small group concept is really working for us," said Patterson.

While technology presents the most challenges, each week the group learns more and improves the process. "Everyone seems to be enjoying The Story," said Patterson. Elementary and Jr. High-age kids have joined in at Our Savior. "They jump in and answer questions, they love to be in front of the camera."

"I think it is helping bring our partnership together," said Heard. "We are getting to share more than just our priest. We are sharing our knowledge, views, and love of Christ with each other."

Photo submitted by Donna Bogan.