Connecting in Confinement

Digital Faith Formation and the Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce Class.

“These times of darkness are opportunities for us to witness the hope that is in us and to demonstrate that we believe none of us are alone,” he said to the 24 little squares on his computer screen. Here they gathered virtually: young and old, singles and couples, dressed up and dressed down. One is an old college roommate in Nashville; a daughter in DC; a former member in Florida; and everyone else scattered around Charlotte. They meet on Zoom to grow in faith and fellowship, despite the distance that separates them. The little squares on that computer screen represent 24 unique lives, but they all have something in common: they are faithful attendees of the Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce Sunday School class. 

Led by Dr. Richard Boyce, this class has earned a reputation for its tradition. They meet on Sundays throughout the year – even when others break for holidays, and now they are meeting through a pandemic. Their classroom in the basement of the B-Building stands as a symbol of this traditional group. Affectionately nick-named the “Panel Room,” it still dons original wood-plank walls and a pulpit with a gavel.

As conventional as this group may be, they were the first at MPPC to take the leap [of faith] to Zoom. “In many ways, our class had the greatest difficulty in shifting to distance,” says Richard. “Many are not technologically savvy, they are committed to face-to-face gatherings, and some have trouble hearing (even in person!).” But they looked beyond the challenges and pushed aside traditions. “In other ways, they were the most adept at changing – because of their love for one another, their long experience in negotiating change in their lives, and the hunger they have for both learning and maintaining their fellowship.” 


The Men’s Bible Study was loosely organized. It later became what is now known as the Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce Sunday School class.

The Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce Classroom today.  

Despite difficulties, there have been many blessings along the way. The blessing of reconnecting with former members; of welcoming new and distant participants; of being able to comfort each other through a series of member deaths; and the blessing of human connection, albeit virtual. “Many of our members, especially those under lock-down in retirement facilities, say that this opportunity has been life-giving for them, one of the few times in their week when they have the privilege of seeing and hearing people outside of their immediate families.”

Former MPPC member, Julian Spratt, was a regular in the Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce classroom until he and his wife moved to Florida late last year. Just as they began to settle in, so did the virus. As a past elder, Julian still received communications from the church, where he learned that the RJB class would transition to Zoom. With the distance barrier dissolved by the online platform, Julian found the old classroom dynamics soon returned, despite the new mode of delivery. “Virtual class is not quite the same as being physically there, but it is a connection we’re happy to have right now,” he shared.

Many of our members, especially those under lock-down in retirement facilities, say that this opportunity has been life-giving for them.

Dr. Richard Boyce

Class Leader

While everyone is ready to get back to in-person meetings, many in the RJB class hope that the current accessibility will be carried into the classroom. Richard concluded by welcoming anyone to join: “Our class has much to learn, but much to teach – about how we keep our faith alive in trying times. Thanks to Zoom and the Holy Spirit, we feel like our class is as alive as it’s ever been. Indeed, we may wear our bathrobes even when we come back to the basement! Do we need Session approval for that?”

The Rhodes-Johnston-Boyce class is open to everyone who would like to participate. Join them on Zoom on Sunday mornings at 9:45 a.m. 

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