Derby Urban Church

While many churches started broadcasting online during lockdown, Derby Urban Church faced a difficult issue.

It’s a growing city centre church in one of the UK’s most deprived areas, with many people who are coming out of homelessness, addiction, debt and poverty. Internet access is an expensive luxury, an unhelpful temptation or simply unwanted. The same group were also not used to using modern technology.

Their ingenious solution has led to them being named our overall ‘Tales of Technology’ competition winners.
Revd Watkins with USB and display tablet

‘We were filming services and streaming through YouTube with the links being emailed out, put on our website and Facebook page,’ said church secretary Chandra Morbey. ‘And we had Zoom and WhatsApp set up quickly, too. But we’re a very diverse church and we serve many vulnerable people who are excluded digitally. All are amazing people with so much to offer, but, to many, internet access is an expensive luxury – or even an unhelpful temptation.

‘We were wondering how to overcome that issue, and the solution we came up with was to buy and give out digital picture frames, which nowadays can also play videos and music. We set up the frames so that when plugged in they automatically displayed a set of pictures. Pictures started with a personalised hello, then church activities, artwork we created during lockdown and finally which button to push to play videos.

Lady watching content on tablet

‘Videos began with welcomes and instructions, and then 4 recorded church services taken from our YouTube channel. They carried several hours of material, and every few weeks we would visit everyone and swap the USB sticks for a new one with fresh content.

‘Many were living alone, too, so lockdown was very hard, and the feedback we got back was amazing – they were so delighted to be able to join in with worship, and really touched that we’d made the effort.’

When the church visited each person to swap the old USB key for a new one, they caught up with how they were doing, and often made a video on the doorstep of a psalm, bible reading or testimony which were used in the live stream the following Sunday.

The church also used technology to create weekly fun assembly videos that were sent to the local schools to maintain the link there, and continues to livestream services post-lockdown.

‘We’ll probably spend the money on improving our livestreaming capability with yet more technology,’ said Chandra. ‘It was a wonderful surprise to win.’

Revd Watkins shows Revd Young how the USB works