Hi Trudy and Mark
Thanks for offering the webinar this afternoon.
I didn't have questions as such, rather I wanted to share my experiences as a lay preacher leading and helping to lead worship during the Lockdown, and what might be useful for the church in future.
1. Worshipping and connecting online works and should be part of the answer for the future
2. Congregations, churches, parishes need to promote themselves to the rest of the community – a marketing mindset
For the first three weeks of the Lockdown our minister offered a reflection in the form of a PDF emailed to the congregation.
On the third Sunday 12 April, eight congregation leaders also went online on Zoom to get a feel for this technology. The session was hosted using one of the leader's employers Zoom account. We all enjoyed seeing each other's faces and chatting.
The next Sunday, 19 April, I was rostered to take the service, and led this on Zoom from my home office, supported by my wife Heather, who played guitar for some simple songs we all knew. I followed my usual order of service model, but with a shorter sermon. The service ran 35-40 minutes and this seemed a good length.
Learning on the fly how to mute and unmute other people was stressful. And we couldn't both display the prayers/hymns on the screen and manage muting on the same laptop. For later services I controlled muting by using another computer in the office to log into Zoom and take control of the meeting, while Heather ran the slides.
Because I set up a paid Zoom account (so we could run sessions for more than 40 minutes), Heather and I hosted the other lockdown services which were run by our minister from his home. Our organist accompanied the hymns from his home.
I recorded video of the Zoom services. I then edited the recordings into separate video and audio files and uploaded them to my Amazon Web Server account. I then provided links to the recordings, which were also posted on our congregation's website and Facebook Page. I also emailed the links to other members.
Each week I record our services and make audio recordings of the readings/sermon, and the whole service available to download. Link here: http://wesleychurch.org.nz/index.php/our-congregations/10am-congregation/10am-sermons
For our first service back in the church (actually in a hall as the church is being earthquake strengthened) I ran a live Facebook video feed on the congregation's Facebook Page. This was easy to do. I set up my mobile phone on a tripod in the centre aisle and pressed record. I used the church's Wifi so I wasn't using data form my mobile phone account. Because I started the video going 15 minutes before the start of the service, I felt that I needed to download the raw video, edit out the material at the start and then repost the video. The resulting video is low resolution.
The trick next time will be to start the video recording at the very start of the service and to then stop recording at the end of the service, so that no editing is required and the video can be left as is on the Facebook page.
Gathering for worship on Sunday mornings as usual. Especially at level 4 this gave a sense of normality.
Seeing each other's faces and spending the first 15 or so minutes giving each person/couple/family a chance to say how their week had been and what was top of mind for them.
We had a communion service one Sunday with the minister blessing the bread and water at his home and us eating and drinking at our homes. This felt fine. No theological issues.
We found we could offer a free telephone dial-in Zoom option which at least one member used.
Because it is not interactive, recording and posting video of a service on Facebook is easy and effective.
Email addresses. Our church office has a list of our congregation's email addresses, our minister has another list, and I had yet another list I used for door steward rosters. We needed to email the link to the upcoming Zoom service to the congregation, but I wasn't sure whether all our members got the emails.
A few of our congregation members are not on the internet and don't have emails. So, at Level 4, they missed out on our online services.
Sound quality is poor on Zoom. Guitar played close to the laptop worked OKish. Our organist playing his electronic keyboard was hard to hear. There are issues with muting everyone but the organist and keeping them muted.
Installing Zoom and configuring it on members computers. Members had to learn about controlling sound and using the video cameras built into their laptops. Some members weren't able to do this.
Taking part in or leading a Zoom session is tiring because we are concentrating intensely and looking directly at each other's faces (including our own) while we are online. It is different to, not easier than, running a service in church. Setting Zoom so that you don't see yourself on screen (although others can), reduces the stress levels.
When I set up my phone on the tripod to video the service on Facebook, it was noticeable that people sat in the outer seats, presumably to avoid appearing in the video. So, if we video services in future, the congregation needs to be comfortable with this.
Promoting your congregation, church, parish
In general, our leadership team is cautious about using Facebook and promoting our congregation online. Heather and I are at the other extreme and are always working on our multiple Facebook pages and other online presences.
When the leaders agreed to start a Facebook page for the congregation, it was decided that we would only post photos and details about our services and other events after they had taken place. Link here: https://www.facebook.com/wesleywellington.methodistchurch.10am/
During the Lockdown I pushed the envelope and Heather and I (as the admins) started to post details of our upcoming services, including links to the Zoom sessions.
One Sunday a couple from Auckland who had been at Wesley until 18 months ago, her brother from Sydney and another former member in Germany joined our Zoom service. They had seen the Zoom link on the Facebook page.
Another Sunday, two older members in a retirement village across town joined the Zoom service. Staff at the village provided them with iPads, which was thoughtful. The paradox was that these two members were not well enough to have come to the church building (had it been open) but could worship with us from home.
I offered to the leadership team to keep doing Facebook livestream videos of our services but they have not responded.
While we need to look after the people we have and build up our fellowship, we also need to be focusing out into the community around us.
Wesley Community Action in Wellington are doing great work in the community and tell their stories effectively on Facebook. They are an example of how effective publicity can be built into our day-to-day activities. Link here: https://www.facebook.com/WesleyCommunityAction/
Good publicity can be as simple, quick and cheap as taking photos on your mobile of what you are already doing and posting one or two on Facebook with short captions.
Worship and other resources for churches
I have been focussing for the last couple of years on publishing worship and other resource books for churches, ministers and worship leaders. The other part of my business (carrying on from when I was running Epworth Books) is supplying books and resources from other publishers, for example Seasons of the Spirit worship and children's ministry materials. Link here: https://pgpl.co.nz/
I offer a free book of songs and prayers I have written when people join my email mailing list here:
I also attach a copy of the book (Kindle a Flame) as a contribution to your collection of resources.
Kindle a Flame
Please keep me in the loop.
Philip Garside Publishing Ltd
Your One-Stop Shop for Book Services
Phone: 04 475 8855