Listening to Digital Pews

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?

A Season of Digital Pews

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.

5 thoughts on “Listening to Digital Pews

Add yours

  1. A couple of questions I have is :
    1. What about the people who are not on Facebook, and those who have no electronics capabilities at all.
    2. How about Sunday School
    for the people who attend The
    Wesley class and Aldersgate class?

    Maybe a written sermon for older members that could be mailed?

    Guess we have to get creative..

    Jan Whiteman

    1. Thanks for engaging online. You raise some good questions. First I would say that Skyland relies on email as our primary tool for important priority news. In regards to Facebook: FB is just one tool we have, and your point is precisely why we are not currently relying only on it to post video. Video is also offered on YouTube and accessible to anyone with a web browser. Once one navigates to YouTube, simply search for “Skyland UMC.” Our channel and our videos should be accessible there. I am interested in forming a list of members who cannot use the internet. We tend to speculate about how many people this category would include. I would like to have a precise answer for clarity. If you know of specific people who cannot get online, please email them to me. Finally, the idea of a Sunday School class is a good one. Joy and I talked about this very question yesterday. I’m just not yet sure of a) how long we will be in this situation b) how to format it c) what means to use to deliver it d) how many people would tune in. What are your thoughts? Anyone else have wisdom or ideas?

  2. One thought comes to mind for the people who do not have Facebook or any way to access your sermons or Joy’s stories, what if the members who are on the list to keep in touch list visit the people and bring their smart phones and play it for the people
    who can’t be reached electronically…?? I know we are encouraged to stay separated but this would only be two or three people together.
    For example, Mary Trail is my keep in touch person here at Getber Park, I could see her and also Sara Smith also and then there is Nan Milner on campus also. Just a thought.

    Another thought came to me early this morning. I hate the thought of missing Easter service. Years ago when I was a child our town in Connecticut used to have a community Easter sunrise service. I know we are not to gather inside but what about outside? We used to go to the hospital parking lot because in our town that was where we could see the sunrise best. Just a thought..

    1. Great ideas. Keep ’em coming. As far as visitation, the staff, some church leaders, and the Keep In Touch team have decided that it’s best not to make in-person visits right now. Keep telephoning them and praying for them. In regards to Easter, we are trying to do something different for Easter. Our planning depends on Buncombe county, and a lot of details we’ve not tried before. We’re looking into it. Believe me, we won’t keep it a secret if we can do something special for Easter. But for now, I don’t expect any face-to-face gatherings.

  3. This topic fits right into a passion of mine. Fresh Expressions, doing Church differently.
    Being new to Skyland I cant wait to see how the Church grows through this hard time. I have no fear we’ll come through this Stronger together.
    I’d love to see the future include live streaming but understand the capital expenses may be out of the question.
    If you can get an idea of how many congregants have no internet access have you given thought to purchasing notebooks with internet service. A special offering?
    I’m really enjoying all of the ways you and your team are keeping us in touch and informed. I’ve never read a blog in my life.
    Facebook, you tube, zoom… could there be a bad way to bring the story’s about Jesus and the stories Jesus told to His people.
    I’d take an on-line class if the situation was right. I think I’d try a Zoom small group.
    Really looking forward to us being together again. See ya Sunday

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