More and more Finnish congregations going online
The number of church functions that can be followed through the Internet is on the increase. The Finnish Lutheran Church intends to add to the volume of various ecclesiastical activities made available online.
“The Web is used for secular purposes, so why not for religious purposes as well? There is room on the Internet for the church, too”, says education planner pastor Terhi Paananen from the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
Paananen points out that churches are public places and the functions organised in them are by definition public.
“The congregations decide independently how they want to utilise the Internet. The initial experiments have been popular”, Paananen says.
Churches equipped with webcams are becoming more and more common.
The local parishes of the Lutheran Church have acquired webcams primarily based on their own demand considerations.
The Maunula Church in Helsinki is one of the congregations that offers podcasts of various concerts, Sunday services, and other worship functions on the Internet. The aim is to provide people with a possibility to access a church gathering when and how it best suits them.
In the Alavus and Teuva Parishes in Western Finland a webcam has been part of the basic equipment of the churches already for a couple of years. The webcam attends in particular to the needs of Finnish expatriates and those with physical disabilities.
There has been hardly any negative criticism. Instead, the podcast option has been applauded by many.
According to Alavus vicar Timo Kumpunen, the global world has presented the congregations, too with the challenge of entering into the online era.
“Seldom do we get requests that we not use the camera in a church function. We tried this out already in 2007, and the parishioners were very interested in the experiment. Through a local network, for example residents in care homes can follow our ceremonies on television”, Kumpunen explains.
In Alavus the camera’s picture quality is grainy enough to make it impossible to recognise individual churchgoers from the image. This serves the purpose of protecting people’s privacy.
“Still, anyone who follows the function through the Internet gets an idea of what is going on”, Kumpunen notes.
The Internet is a familiar tool also in the Teuva Parish.
“The service is in use in our Sunday worship, and many Finnish expats regularly follow the goings-on at their home church. Also some private functions, such as funerals, have been podcast at the request of the family of the deceased”, explains Teuva pastor Mika Helander.