The CoVid-19 pandemic has led many churches, and other houses of worship, to begin streaming some sort of worship on the internet. What this shift is revealing is something most folks who do church communications already thought we knew. Most smaller churches lack the equipment, software expertise, and general know-how to produce a “professional” live stream for their communities. I’ve even received some calls from folks who wanted to forward their congregations to churches which are doing “really good streams.” They made this request from me because they’d been on a Zoom meeting with some larger church, which offered patronizing “help” for smaller churches that can’t produce what they are able–the poor smaller churches could feel free to send folks to their streams for the duration of the crisis.
When I heard this suggestion had been made, I thought my eyeballs were going to catch fire and smoke would start pouring from my nostrils. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and, instead of offering assurance that all authentic ministry to people is good, “successful” churches are patting small churches on the head and saying, “Just send your folks our way, you poor things.”
It’s infuriating. Sure, churches may want to invest in some things to make a live stream better as this continues, but here’s the secret that the “successful” churches don’t want smaller churches to know.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t do a “professional” stream.
Just be authentic to who your church is.
Look, I’ve got just enough competency to make our stream look borderline competent. And I both do communications as part of my vocation and have been working with these technologies for years. If you’re a pastor or church leader who barely knows how to start a live stream on their phone, then the folks in your congregation know that. Steer into the skid, laugh at yourself, and don’t try to re-create the physical reality of your worship gathering. People just want to know that we’re still connected. They want to see the folks who are “in charge” of their worshipping communities are loving, and present in the ways they are able to be present in these circumstances. If this is a weird looking single-shot on your phone, then that is enough. And if you want to do a little something to improve things, then go online and get a cheap tripod and phone-mount to keep the camera steady.
It’s fine. More than that, it’s an act of compassion and care for folks who may feeling disconnected and anxious. It’s good.
And if you think you aren’t doing enough to bring worship to people during this time, let me leaving you with a quote from this excellent essay by Orthodox Priest, Alexis Vinogradov,
At the last opportunity when each of us was able to receive the actual Holy Gifts, we were told to depart in peace, and to BE communion for the world. That command has not expired, and remains our daily work until we gather again at liturgy, whenever that timeless Hour once more dawns for us in time. Meanwhile and forever: Christ is in our midst!
Professional live stream, functional live stream, or no live stream we remain the Church. The call has not expired. Let us be what we are, in Christ.