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Monday 11th January 2021

Digital devotions at Florence House

Through the power of technology and perseverance, our team at Florence House have been working hard to support the spiritual life of the home

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“We are virtual people,” says Shannon, Activities Facilitator at Florence House, Peterborough. “It’s been a big change, but our family members have adjusted very well. They understand what technology can do for them.”

Shannon is reflecting on how the community at Florence House has embraced technology to support the spiritual life of the home. All our homes hold regular devotions sessions which typically include a short talk from the Bible, a prayer time and hymns. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, these were often led by members of the clergy and volunteers who would visit the home. With visiting restrictions in place, Florence House have had to find new ways to make sure these important times of spiritual focus are still possible.

“We have a big television screen in the lounge which we connect up to a laptop via an HDMI cable and stream YouTube,” says Shannon. “Before the pandemic, if you mentioned YouTube our family members would ask ‘what’s that?’. But now they just know – they see it every day.”

Accessing YouTube in this way means that family members can enjoy listening to sermons by well-known Christian speakers. “Billy Graham is very popular with our family members,” says Shannon. “They often ask me if I will put on a Billy Graham sermon, although we do have to make sure we have enough time. Billy Graham was a marathon preacher and his sermons can last everything from 20 minutes to up to an hour.”

Those living at the home have also been enjoying singing along to Christian songs on YouTube, with the lyrics handily appearing on-screen. “I can’t always remember the tunes so it’s very useful to have the instrumentals provided,” says Shannon.

While our family members have been enjoying on-screen devotions, they have of course missed the in-put and fellowship that comes from having visitors. In partnership with local churches, Florence House has been working hard to make sure they still have contact. Once a month, Pastor Wesley from the nearby Salem Baptist Church joins the home via Zoom call, taking the time to speak to each family member. In a recent Zoom call with Pastor Wesley, Agnes, one of the family members said, “Thank you very much for coming. You are a very nice man and it is always nice to see you.”

On Remembrance Day, Florence House was also able welcome another special guest. Rupert, who is a volunteer from Park Road Baptist Church and a familiar face with those at the home, joined via video call to lead devotions.

Recently, Florence House has been able to welcome in a real-life visitor. Martyn Hallett, Pastoral Co-ordinator at Dorothea Court (our housing scheme in Bedford) now comes once a month to take the Holy Communion service. Appropriate precautions are taken, with Martyn standing behind a Perspex screen. “Everyone is very excited when we have Holy Communion,” says Shannon. “They love Martyn.”

Florence House are looking forward to the time when they can welcome back visiting clergy and volunteers regularly. But now that they’ve seen the advantages of being able to bring up a sermon or favourite hymn at the click of a button, it’s likely that spiritual life in the home will be supported by technology long into the future.

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