What goes into an online worship service? Prayers and God's grace!
I'm writing this article because a day will come when I'm not sure I will believe we actually went through this.
With today's technology, broadcasting online is not complicated. Pastor Matt Danielson and I decided to give it a go last week without a whole lot of experience. We had both attended Zoom meetings, but had never planned to use it for a worship service. As of a week ago Friday we were both planning to have worship at our churches, but by Saturday it was clear that online was going to be the only option.
Today was our third worship service together online, a partnership between Salem and Baxter/Saron Lutheran Churches, where Pastor Matt D. serves. On Friday, Jackie Lindvall and I discovered that there were some problems with the Salem WiFi signal. She and I called the provider on Friday to get the problem addressed, but this morning when I got to the church and did a speed test, the service was still extremely slow. Fortunately, Salem member Dave Eeckhoff came over to the church out of curiosity, wanting to watch how we broadcast the service. I had the Salem Chromebook on the IV drip of a WiFi signal at church, and Pastor Matt D. used his own laptop on a mobile hot spot that Dave created on his phone. During the service my Chromebook would drop the signal, and Pr. Matt D. became the 'back-up' so that we could keep going. There was a reason I projected the bulletin for most of the service!
Jackie Lindvall is graciously helping to address this WiFi signal issue for us so that by Wednesday evening that shouldn't be an issue.
If you tuned into the service this morning, you may have noticed that Salem member Jeri Blom was our reader (via Zoom). That worked! Another thing that worked was to have Salem organist Diane Shulte pre-record the hymn accompaniments from home on her phone and email them to me. For the service I played these hymns on my phone to a Bluetooth speaker, which was then picked up through the mic on Pr. Matt D.'s headset. When you are in a hurry and trying to make do, it's surprising what works.
One issue is that we can't necessarily hear the broadcast in real time, because if we do listen to it there is a several second delay, making it next to impossible to concentrate on what we are reading or saying.
After the online service, Pr. Matt D. and I decided to re-record most of it in the sanctuary for the TV station (Wednesday and Friday on Channel 180). I thought his sermon was great, and actually wanted to be sure to get a better recording. You can see him preaching in the empty Salem sanctuary in the photo!
One might ask, why we don't just do the online service live from the sanctuary? The reason is because the WiFi signal from the office is stronger in the Strombeck Room. Another reason is that our TV recording equipment in the sanctuary is in the back, and we would need to connect that to the laptop on which we are recording - but we are in the front of the church. In other words, it's simpler in the Strombeck Room. If we end up doing this for longer than a few weeks, we'll get something figured out.
Once we get this to work a little more smoothly, we will post the services from that point on to slcmonte.org for later viewing.
So, there's the story. I want to thank Pr. Matt D. for simply being willing to try this and to help keep it fun rather than frustrating. Thank you to Dave for providing a mobile hot spot this morning that basically carried the service. Thank you to Diane for experimenting with multiple ways of recording the hymns from home to get them to sound right. And thank you to Jeri for reading for the worship service - from her house! Finally - thank Jackie Lindvall for the tremendous help she has provided through tech-support as we figure out how to make it through this time as an 'online' church. Despite the temporary chaos, this is actually forcing a modernization of how we do things that will help us in our ministry moving forward.
When everything is said and done, the most important part is that YOU tuned in! It is the Holy Spirit who unites us together through worship (even online) to sing, to pray, and to hear God's Word. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is very accommodating and not subject to the limits of technology. Thanks be to God for the grace to make this work!