As most of you know, our church is blessed with strong leadership, musical talent, technology expertise and the beauty of flowers. Ed, Hal, Kyle, and Cilla have devoted themselves to keeping us connected as a community of faith. Kyle has been behind the camera as we worshipped from our homes this past year.
I asked Kyle Gray (KG) to explain the experience, from his perspective.
EG: How did we evolve from the first day of online church to now?
KG: The church used either Ed’s iPhone or iPad on a tripod to livestream to Facebook Live. This quick-thinking allowed the church to continue services without missing a Sunday service at the onset of the pandemic. However, the increasing availability of higher end consumer audio/video products and the greater expectancy of higher production values guided the church to introduce a producer (Kyle) to handle the livestreaming while Ed could focus on his ministry. Some folks also have an aversion to Facebook as a sharing/viewing platform (for various reasons); so, we switched to using YouTube…which has the added benefit of embedding and archiving the videos on our website for future viewing.
EG: What has been most challenging in videotaping and streaming the services? What has been most fun?
KG: During any live recording, I am most anxious about three things 1. Rural internet — I constantly have an eye on the data upload rate which, early on, had a tendency to drop low enough to make the video blurry or even fail to upload. 2. My computer — t’s getting older, the battery is failing and the fan runs for the whole service to keep the CPU from overheating. 3. Updates — There is a lot of updatable software in between the individual pieces of hardware; and miscommunication between them can cause an array of failure. Keeping these systems updated and troubleshooting errors is a continuous task before, during and after the service has been recorded.
As for the most fun, the people and message were the best part of live-streaming the Sunday services. In a period when socializing was forbidden and spirits were low, I was able to work with Reverend Ed and musician extraordinary Hal Parker in person…and to help share the message with others. Cilla produced tantalizing flower bouquets each week, and a rotating cast of deacons made for guest visits in an otherwise vacant sanctuary. Seeing and passing-along messages of thanks from friends and neighbors on the YouTube chat during the service was a bonus in feeling connected to everyone from ‘Greensboro near and far.’
EG: Going forward, once we have people in the pews, how will we maintain/grow our online capabilities?
KG: When the pandemic restrictions relax and agreed-upon safety to meet-in-person is reached, we’ll still want to reach-out and connect with congregation members and visitors who can’t physically be in the church. We’ll be installing a more automated camera and microphone system to livestream the Sunday and holiday services to YouTube and to Facebook. Each service is also archived on the “Sermons”-page of www.guccvt.org; and we may include the most recent service from each week on the front page of the website as well. The sky is the limit with how much media can be produced and how many ways it can be presented and found online — The internet offers people ever expanding options for connecting to faith and to each other. So, it’s up to the church to decide how broad its community should be and how far its message should go.
EG: What should people expect? What can they do to help?
We have a small but devoted congregation that, like the rest of Greensboro’s population, almost doubles in the summer. The live video streams were born out of necessity from the pandemic; but we hope they will continue to reach folks during the year to keep the community identifying and engaging with the church and its message of community, love, and support. “God is still speaking” is a message of the UCC; but it’s also important for folks to keep-in-touch; and the GUCC is a home for folks to do that. The more people stay connected, the stronger our community will be.