This morning is weird for me. As much as I enjoy a leisurely morning, I am missing Sunday worship. Looking on the bright side, the involuntary opportunity before us is to explore what role the digital age can play in our faith. Since I’m writing this when I would ordinarily be in worship, my question is this: How do you think you would best use electronic means of worship or faith formation?
Many congregations are live-streaming services today. That practice was set up before the outbreak and they had a plan B already in place. Some stream straight to their web site. Other use Facebook live. The advantage of these methods is that they can be routine for home bound persons, for people away on business or vacation, or for people temporarily laid up with a sprained ankle or a bad cold. Live-streaming has become relatively inexpensive, and it doesn’t require us to change much of what we’re doing.
The disadvantage of live-streaming for me is that the content doesn’t meet the form. In no other instance do we look into a screen from the perspective of a stationary camera for one hour. Being there in person, even on a Sunday that is perceived to be “boring,” keeps us engaged. At home alone, the lack of playing by the visual and auditory rules we’ve all absorbed from watching TV and movies seems artificially sterile. In order to create a live experience for the screen requires multiple cameras, different lighting, better sound, and a fair amount of hardware. Churches that are often pointed out to me as ones to emulate are visually literate. There is no high viewership worship service anywhere that uses one stationary camera.
I’m kind of glad that Skyland didn’t have a plan B ready to go. We’ve been forced to be creative. The emergency has given us license to try things without worrying whether or not they are the most effective means possible. The perfect hasn’t been the enemy of the good. My video, for example, was somewhat out of focus, the sound levels varied, and the color grading lacked consistency, but I posted it anyway. We’re using multiple platforms of Facebook, YouTube, a web site, email, and now this blog. We are going to learn a lot over the next few weeks about the role digital media might play in the future of Skyland.
So what do you want to see in Skyland’s digital future? Would you rather see us on Facebook live? Would you rather see shorter creative pieces like the sermon filmed separately on different locations? Would you ever consider taking a class online? Or is it all just more digital detritus in world where your inbox is always overflowing and you think you’ll expire if you have to see one more slide presentation? Would you and your children benefit from something online? Would you meet with a small group via Zoom? Would you watch a video newsletter? Would you prefer all stories simply be captured one time on a Facebook feed or an Instagram post rather than a newsletter? Would you consult a curated set of online resources that Skyland didn’t produce? What can you think of that didn’t occur to me?
For now, we’re making this road as we travel it. I look forward to your feedback. Peace.