Gathering when we can’t gather (part 1)

How can we maintain our community of faith when we officially are not allowed to meet together in our larger communities for worship?

Many of us find valuable the opportunity to meet at least once a week in gathered worship. We can continue relationships; be together to sing, pray and hear the word of God preached; and maybe have some good coffee and food with friends old and new.

Young people also value the opportunity to gather for these reasons and more – and now worship gatherings have been shut down and many of the other places they gather providing opportunities to come together for worship, or simple to just “be”, impossible.

It’s important we participate in these closures so that we can do our part in swiftly reducing the spread of the Coronavirus. That’s an important message to share with everyone–just because you might be fit and healthy doesn’t mean you can’t pass it on or even get it yourself. Maintaining proper hygiene practices, keeping proper physical distances, and only going to places you need to go (like work or the shops, etc) will help our entire society beat this together.

Socially, we need to stay connected, and in 2020 our biggest problem is not what do we do. It’s more like: “Which of the many options do we choose?!”

This post is the first in a short series of ideas, tools and strategies that can help you and your church stay connected with each other – young, old, and everyone in between – while we must be physically separate.

So – what are you going to do about worship? Thinking about pre-recording or live-streaming church so that your congregation (and others) have the chance to gather? For some who feel this is outside their level of competence a number of Uniting Churches are providing online services so you and your congregation might take part in them.

If you want to push on and deliver your own service online here’s some SIMPLE OPTIONS:

Pre-record your service.
This might seem convoluted and can be as complex or simple as you like. Film it on your smartphone, your digital handycam or DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, and then edit the files together to create a finished service.

It provides you the opportunity to ‘get it right’ and you can edit it on your phone, tablet or laptop using things like Apple’s iMovie or Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker.

Once you have the finished product, upload it to your church Facebook page, YouTube, Vimeo account or wherever, and you can publish it straight away or schedule it to release at a specific time (e.g. 9am Sunday).

(If you want your service to go up on Facebook in a pre-recorded mode, be aware there are resolution and time length limitations. Check these before trying to upload your masterpiece, Mr DeMille.)

Meet online as your service (or for conversation afterwards).
Meeting online has become the default for many in their daily work lives. Tools like Zoom, Skype, WebEx or Microsoft Teams allow many people to connect with each other as a video conference and discuss the issues to hand and collaborate when separated.

Some offer a free limited service; all offer various levels of subscription to use these tools. All of them offer screen-sharing so participants can see an app or webpage at the same time, and some included a shared ‘whiteboard’ option.

Only people with the link to the meeting, or are welcomed in by the meeting host or another participant, can take part. This is not live-streaming your service; it’s a meeting as a moment in time and can be recorded for later use. It could be used for your small/home group to meet together, or even for a discussion time when your usual church service time would be.

This is a great way to gather together, see and hear each other, and care for each other while we must remain separate.

Each service offers different means to connect. Some provide telephone dial-in details; all offer internet connection for video and audio. It will mean each participant needs a smartphone, tablet or laptop – as well as an internet connection – if you want to see and hear each other. Apps are available on smartphones/tablets for each service to make it easier to connect and engage.

Mevo Plus

Live-stream your service.
At its simplest: grab your smartphone and connect to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo or the like and start streaming.

You might choose to have a microphone plugged into your smartphone. There are lots of USB-C and bluetooth microphones available, or for Apple devices a Rode i-XLR connector allows you to plug a normal microphone you use at church (with an XLR connector that does not need phantom power) directly into your iPhone. I’ve used this with great success in the past and it can provide great quality – a tip: if using a wireless mic test record and adjust the gain out of the receiver so that it’s not too ‘hot’ and distorted.

Mevo offer an excellent single point camera (Mevo Star or Mevo Plus) you can control using their app on your smartphone. With the Mevo Plus you can also plug in an external audio feed via an adapter to help make the audio clearer, and the camera can digitally zoom in and follow a speaker as they walk around (within limits).

Make sure you tell people about your service!
Whatever you’re doing, via phone, text or e-mail so they know when and where to gather. No point putting in the effort if nobody knows about it.

Next post we’ll look at some slightly more expensive and complex options that can offer a more flexible opportunity for your gathered worship. In the final post we’ll up the ante further to help you consider bigger possibilities.

(If you have questions or ideas to add, email me!)

Molk is the Senior Field Officer (North), and responsible for young adult ministry as a part of the PULSE team.

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