• Sensing the Presence of God Through Online Worship at Heritage Fellowship in Canton, Georgia

      Bishop, Justin Dwight; McAfee School of Theology
      Can sensory experiences enhance online worship? In an era when church attendance is in cultural decline and online or hybrid worship is becoming the new normal, one wonders how to make the most of this limited time in worship, especially for online worshipers. This thesis examines the biblical and historical use of sensory elements in worship, and it seeks to reimagine them for an online presentation in order to examine the effect of these sensory elements on the online worshipers’ experiences. Ten participants volunteered to take part in four video worship experiences during the Lenten season of 2021, beginning with a survey and semi-structured interview prior to the actual worship experiences and ending with a similar survey and interview. The questions were designed to determine if the sensory elements “enhanced” the overall online worship experience without using the word “enhance.” The themes that emerged from the surveys and interviews indicated that sensory elements were disruptive enough to call attention to the act of worship, enhancing it by making it less of an event to attend and more of an act in which to participate. Finally, in conclusion, this thesis offers ideas for how worship leadership might incorporate more sensory elements in both in-person and online worship that might enhance the divine encounter.