Like many other churches, our Chaplaincy is using the Internet to maintain connections with our community across the Chaplaincy.
We have now offered online worship on 2 Sundays as well as a mid-week Service of Healing.
Because we are able to get a lot of (anonymous) analytical data from our website, we know that on both Sundays more than 100 people have visited our website to join in our worship, with another 50+ watching our Service of Healing. And not only in the Chaplaincy area. People have been joining us from around the world. In addition, we had the great delight of being able to welcome Canon Tony Jewiss last Sunday, when he preached his sermon all the way from California !
The Services remain available online for a number of weeks, so you can still watch them later if you would like to.
A great many members of our parish have generously taken the time to read parts of the service into a variety of home technologies including laptops, smartphones and tablets. All this audio has then been subjected to ‘post-production’ editing to remove coughs, squeaking chairs, refrigerator motors and hesitations. It takes a lot of pressure off our readers when they know that any mistakes they make will be removed later. For future contributors, remember: we’ve got your back!
And then, of course, we come to the video footage. Video is much harder to edit than audio, and until a few years ago, was amazingly complex and required specialist computer equipment. In 2015 I had to create a 6 minute video to show at a European Commission Conference, and it took a technical editor 2 months of work on a very expensive and especially configured computer to prepare my film.
A mere 5 years later, the ability to mix video footage has advanced to the point that we were able to produce footage for our midweek service at Dan’s home, upload it to the internet, and edit it and mix it with music and other special effects within few hours and output a finished service in the afternoon, including additional live recordings from that day. We almost decided to broadcast it live, but were not confident about the capacity of the internet to do this - too many young folks playing with their X-Boxes on the web !
A lot of this has only been possible because of the technical support churches are giving one another to quickly master the myriad of different bits of computer systems needed to shoot, record and broadcast our worship via YouTube, Wix, Vimeo, Google, Skype, Whatapp or any of a dozen other systems. Being 2 days ahead of your colleagues on one aspect of the technology makes you the ‘expert’, and tips are flying around freely on specialist worship groups on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.
So what does this mean for our worship in the longer term ? Will it be easy, once the current emergency is past, to return to getting up and tidied in order to drive to Church, rather than sit down in front of a monitor in your pyjamas and a cup of coffee to take part ? Is internet-based worship ‘valid’ ? Deep theological discussions are being actively pursued about this, and at the moment, the jury is still ‘out’. No one believes that church-based worship will be driven out by the computer, but it might offer new opportunities to gather, to worship and also to explore one’s faith. Logging onto a computer screen is less daunting that walking into a Church.
And even our Bishops are now adopting this technology. On Easter Sunday, (and much earlier than our service - we asked him to avoid a scheduling conflict !) Bishop Robert is planning to broadcast from his front room in Brussels. Details will appear on our website next week.
The picture at the top of this article shows that the technology to produce our online material is not entirely simple, but not one item of software you can see on the 4 screens had to be paid for. It was all supplied free by its authors. Eventually, if we decide to continue with internet broadcasting, there will be some costs involved, but these are trivial and far less expensive than even a single car journey each month – plus much more environmentally friendly.
We hope you are finding our online attempts spiritually satisfying. Don’t forget that our entire ethos has been to involve members of our congregations from all over our Chaplaincy in creating this worship. So – why not contact Dan and offer your services to prepare part of our worship ? Stay safe, stay well. Clive Billenness