Tuesday, November 6, 2012

First Church Announces Move to Digital Congregation


“A shift towards all things digital and the convenience of having worship at any time is the reality First Church is facing today.”  This is the reason the Pastor Bob Tuttle gave to the two denominational press agents who covered the press conference. 

First Church will be closing its brick and mortar doors on April 30, 2013 and moving to a completely digital church experience.  This comes as a response to the lackluster offerings and fundraisers added to the overhead costs in keeping the building open.  There are only three employees affected by this move, Pastor Bob, the lawn maintenance company and the cleaning company. 

When asked about the online worship experience Pastor Bob explained about what the church is calling; “First Church Next.”  Between now and April 30, 2013, First Church will undergo a complete renovation online.  Instead of a website made in 1994 they will be plugging in tens of dollars into a new website which is currently under construction.  This new site will have video recordings of Pastor Bob’s sermons, which he will preach from the parsonage’s office.  “Now I can truly dress comfortably under my robe.” replied Pastor Bob. “instead of a suit, I can still be in my pajamas.” 

Parishioners are excited about this new direction First Church is taking and what First Church Next can offer their online congregation.  Many have started to volunteer in the numerous areas of the digital worship experience.  There are volunteer opportunities in the Prayer Line Phone Banks, taped hymn singers, worship chat supervisors and sermon laugh track operators.  “With the ease of video editing we can get a worship service down to about 40 minutes.  Plus it is now distraction free from any human interaction,” replied First Church Next web designer Phil McVine.  “Plus now, people can enjoy our worship service anytime online, which just a click of a button and patience to wait through the buffering.”

When asked how many of his aging congregation had access to this new site Pastor Bob replied, “45% of our congregation has the wisdom and ability to navigate online.  We hope that this move will increase that number to at least 60% by the end of 2013.” 

First Church’s property has occupied the corner of First Avenue and Main Street for the last 113 years.  It has been a fixture in the community and many people are sad to hear about its move to an online community of faith.  Jessica Coke says, “I have walked by this church every morning on my way to work, it will be sad to see it close.”  When asked about their move to the new digital medium, she replied, “I don’t know if I will visit their new website or not.  But I did hear that Starbucks is looking to move into this corner now.  That would be a huge positive impact to this community.”

There have been some interest in the corner besides Starbucks.  ariSE, a non-denominational church with sixteen other locations within the city, has shown interest in turning this location into another worship video feed center.

The last physical service for First Church will be held on April 28, 2013 at 11:00am.  The date of the launch of their new website and online worship experience is still to be determined.


*The above is a satirical look at the reasoning behind the closing of all Cokesbury Stores by the United Methodist Publishing House.  Sad day in the life of the UMPH.  Inevitable? Probably.  Sad? Absolutely!  I am just sad that the one of the physical places to go to get Christian literature, programs, church supplies, and quality theology is closing.  I feel all that is left is LifeWay and that saddens me.

6 comments:

Dr. Tony said...

Jim,
I like it. I wrote something similar a couple of years ago - http://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2007/07/15/what-we-are-supposed-to-do/ -

Darcyjo said...

Cringing at the very thought of Lifeway being the only place to go to...and still feeling irate that they are closing the Cokesbury store at Duke!

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor taste. I'm sure the employees that are losing their jobs think this is hilarious.

Jim Parsons said...

Anonymous, this is satire and it is actually stating that this idea is a bad one. My heart breaks for those losing their job. The point of this post was to point out that closing Cokesbury stores may not be the best route for the UMPH to take.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I'm one of the Cokesbury employees losing his job and I DO think this is hilarious. But I disagree that this decision is inevitable: why is Lifeway thriving but Cokesbury failing? Because their denomination supports Lifeway; the same is not true of Cokesbury. In addition, Cokesbury and UMPH as a whole still operate under a rigid, 1950s-style management structure that generates an overall CYA attitude throughout the company. Notice Neil said he's expanding the sales rep program and will increase Cokesbury's presence at events -- but both these sales channels have been money losers forever. Yet most of the stores still finished the last fiscal year in the black. So what's really going on here? I wish I knew. It's clear that the incompetence of upper level management and the apparent ignorance of the board are the real reasons Cokesbury stores are closing. But, hey, folks, have fun trying to find anything on cokesbury.com!

Tim Roberts said...

Jim,

I think your satirical editorial hits the nail on the head. United Methodist Publishing House will find that this decision was poorly thought through. The problem is not that more and more people are turning to the digital medium, but that the upper management of Cokesbury has not been forward-thinking enough to remain relevant. Most of the stores have operated in the black, but have not made significant increases to profits - but is that the point of a church related store? I am afraid that when the Cokesbury stores close, UM Publishing believe all of us good little Methodists will bebop right on over to their new web store and/or telephone salesline; some will, most won't. I will not. From multiple experiences, the website lacks any useful interface and telephone sales, while allowing you to speak to a real person, does not afford you to see anything. Overall, Cokesbury is normally more expensive than other outlets, but having the opportunity to see and peruse before buying, along with the helpful sales associates offset the price difference. In my local store at Greensboro, Lilian, the store manager knows me and knows my church's preferences. She has often led me to try one thing and shy away from another because of that personal connection. If all I am left with is the choice to talk to a stranger over the phone, or try to use a user-unfriendly website, I will choose Amazon.com. At least I know that their prices will be the best and there are no shipping costs.

P.S. I find it quite distressing that when I go to the UM Publishing website to find some way to contact them about my displeasure in their decision, the only method of contact is a general email address. This is surely not a good sign of things to come.