Yesterday I held my first virtual workshop and ritual as part of Beltane Brouhaha, hosted by the NC Piedmont Church of Wicca. First, I have to say the organizers did a fantastic job pulling this event together in roughly a month. They used 3 platforms--Zoom workshops, Facebook live streams and chats on Discord. Now this is was my very first time at the event, and I know some regulars were disappointed that it couldn't be held in person because of COVID-19, but overall, I thought it went well.
I had about 5 participants in my workshop on Grieving the Pagan Way, and I was happy with the attendance. I really had to alter the workshop, however, in order to make it work from a distance. Some things that work well in person, for example, just don't translate over a computer screen, so I cut those parts out. Fortunately, I had lots of visuals, and the participants said they appreciated that--much better than just staring at my mug for an hour! Ha!
The biggest challenge was the technology, just the switching back and forth between sharing my screen on Zoom and then reviewing Powerpoint, plus using written notes and physical altar items (pictured). Of course, this wasn't required, but--I guess I like to challenge myself! I really did miss the visual interaction with participants, however. You can't really require folks to share their video, especially if they just rolled out of bed. And even those who are on video, sometimes you can't seem them depending on how you're using your computer screen. There were times when I wondered, "Are they still there?" It was all good in the end, but I realized how much we depend on body language and visual cues when trying to interact with an audience.
Despite all the challenges, etc., I was happy to have had the opportunity to present. Going forward, I think us ministers, priests and priestesses are going to have to do more of this sort of thing to connect, so we'd better get used to it now. I also expect that when I start my hospital chaplain residency in August that I'll be doing many tasks by phone, tablet or computer. Here's a related article about how chaplains in Boston are adapting to COVID-19. And finally, I enjoyed being with some familiar (and new!) faces to celebrate Beltane--and remember, despite the difficulties we may be experiencing now, Beltane teaches us that life will carry on. Let's do what we can to seize that and live with joy.