Technical Tips for Cyber-Space Anglicans

 

Intro:

In this new Physical Distancing Space, a new set of rules applies. We’ve been dumped in it boots and all. Our primary goals of making and developing disciples, encouraging the flock and worshipping our God all still exist. But everything e4lse is different. Worship Services, church groups, communion, vestry meetings, pastoral care, youth groups and more are all changed – changed in how we do it – but not in our ultimate goals.

This is a peer tutoring space where we can offer hints and tips for clergy to be encouraged and empowered to try, reflect, and learn. This week’s ‘Tips’ is about technical stuff. We are encouraged and delighted at how many of you are jumping into the cyber space, using what you have, and giving it a go.  For those who are not so confident, and even for those who are regular users of the cyber-space, below are 3 simple tips that we all need to be reminded of at this time.

 

Beginners Guide:

The Diocesan Ministry Team (DMT) have created a beginner’s guide to online ministry. This was sent to clergy on 22 April 2020. Download a copy of the document here called: Online Ministry - A Beginner's Guide. To talk to DMT about other training and help you might need, email Charlotte on: mentalhealth@anglicanlife.org.nz.

Top Tips:

  1. Be you; be warm; be welcoming; be authentic.

When you have a camera in front of you, sometimes we forget to smile. Did you know that even if people can’t see you, they can tell when you’re smiling just by the way you speak? [Click here to learn about voice smiling.] Think of your audience, visualise the regulars, and speak to them the same as if you were speaking to a best friend. [One Minister printed photos of his congregation and taped them to his pews so he could speak more directly to and remember his audience. What a great inspiration! Read it here.]

  • If you can have a warm background behind the camera, that’s good as well. But work with what you have and if desired, pick a virtual background.
  • Think of energy, eye contact and expression: use your body, face and speech to engage and communicate. Have a variety of pitch, pace/pauses, and power. Use your articulators. [If you want a really quick refresher of these points click here.] Afterall, ultimately people need to hear you. And that brings us to the next tip…

 

  1. Optimise the sound quality on the device you are using.

It might sound silly, but have you checked the microphone on your laptop? Many of you won’t have a separate mic to plug in, and most devices have ok sound anyway. But where is the mic? Does it make a difference where you position yourself in relation to it? Yes – it does. Mine is either side of my camera and is just 2 tiny dots, one each side.

  • Also check your mic is fully optimised, and your volume fully up, not just on your screen. [To do this, locate your volume button at the bottom of your screen and right click on it – open settings and check. It should look something like this screen shot on the right.]

 

  1. Short is better

Being on camera is a “distilled” form of communication. A normal service may take 1 hr but don’t think you need to take 1 hr in your video services. Refining your message down to the nitty-gritty, the nub of it, will work better in video format, than a longer sermon. Social media videos are usually very short, but for our purposes, like a service or sermon, it is generally recommended they don’t come in longer than 20mins. [Extra for experts: You can use analytics to check when people drop out and adjust your length to capture most listeners.] It also doesn’t hurt to have your service in segments and allow people to dip in and out as they have time to allocate. This can be done with separate videos or some markers in time to indicate when the sermon/message starts and ends, for example.

 

Platforms, programmes and people:

There are many ways of doing cyber-space. You can pre-record a video using your phone or laptop and then once happy with it, upload it to FB and YouTube. Or you can livestream the full service in real time. Both and a mix is ok. It depends a lot on what you have to use, and who you have to help you. If you don’t know how to do a video, but want to give it a go, contact a parishioner who has the expertise, or Grant Bennett, an audio-visual expert, who has offered to help.  Below are the platforms most used and a bit about each: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. You can also chat to Rev’d Joshua ‘Spanky’ Moore if you want advice on these.

  • Facebook: is a social networking site. It lets you share photos, videos, links, status updates, and much more with your friends. You can upload a short video to FB easily as a post. This means you create the video and then upload it, and people can watch it at their leisure, or as their timetable permits. They can also watch it a second time, or more.
  • Instagram: Instagram tends to be a younger person’s platform. It’s a good “live” space which is free from some of the security/predatory issues associated with TikTok and SnapChat, for example. Rev’d Lucy Flatt uses this for night prayers (with 0 at 8.30 pm Mon-Fri)
  • YouTube: is a video sharing platform. You can watch almost any video from all over the world. To get started you need to open an account, then you can upload your video and see how many views it gets. People often post their YouTube videos on FB as well.
  • Twitter: another social networking where people interact via “tweets”, short, 140-character messages, that can be liked and re-posted similar to Facebook. Good for short messages like breaking news. Twitter have a live twitter chat space as well.
  • Zoom: is primarily a business tool designed to increase communication and collaboration. But used as a service/meeting platform can be a relatively simple way to achieve genuine interaction and conversation among a group who are remote. It combines audio, video and message boards and is relatively easy to use. Key advantage – it’s interactive.

Duncan Macleod is a former kiwi Presbyterian, who now provides support for about 60 congregations in Australia. He has published 8 tips for broadcasting worship.

Tips for broadcasting and live-streaming worship

Collaboration:

Remember, not everyone has to re-create the full service. A lot of energy is being expended in creating online worship for individual congregations, while the parish next door is duplicating exactly the same exercise. You can collaborate with another church and take turn about, or you can point your congregation to another church’s service, and just upload your own sermon, for example. We are now working i n a new space and locality and walls no longer constrain us. Think about what is best for you and your congregation. Do you need a Sunday off? upload your content early. Have you got a clergy colleague(s) who you’d always wanted to work with? Approach them and see if you can splice together a unique multi-congregation service. Or create a video about what is happening in your parish and some success stories, and send it off to other churches as a word of encouragement to use in their service. The opportunities are endless.

 

Peer reviews:

  • Rev’d Chris Ponniah uses his iPhone and iMagic to record and edit his videos:

 “I started exploring how best I can continue doing the daily prayers and the Sunday services. I did explore streaming but I am not very technical minded and I just couldn’t get my head around it. The method I am using at the moment is making videos with my iMovie app on my iPhone. I make various video clips of me talking or praying; using QuickTime player to make video clips of slides with prayers on them and adding YouTube clips of worship songs. One of my church members offered to do the Bible readings for church members so I have asked him to make a video clip of him doing the readings from the Lectionary. I then use iMovie to merge all the clips together. And it makes the video seamless. Using this method has allowed me to do it by myself without anyone assisting. When I have posted the Video online on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, I send a daily email to parishioners so that they can watch the video. It seems to be working as I have over 150 views for each of the videos. However I know that a number of people watch it at least twice each day.”

  • Rev’d Joshua Taylor uses a mixture of platforms:

I think it all depends on the resources at hand. Our Youth Pastor Ed is very good with video editing/uploading etc. so we have chosen to use these frequently. Without his help we wouldn’t be able to do it. We have gone for pre-recorded morning prayers on Facebook and night prayers live on instagram. We have also decided to pre-record Bible reading and sermons on a Sunday. With our pre-recorded stuff we upload in two formats – Facebook and YouTube. The YouTube option is easy to email around as a link to those who are not on social media. All of this isn’t particularly interactive or conversational so alongside this we decided to encourage our existing small groups to meet on Zoom and start two “Zoom Chapel” sessions where anyone can join on a Monday and Wednesday at midday. These are chatty, and consist of a catch up, a bible reading and short inductive study followed by prayer for each other… That’s us really. We can only make it work because there are four of us on team and Ed can edit/do video stuff well.

  • Rev’d Megan Herles-Mooar uses a blend of mediums as well:

Morning and midday prayer are on Facebook because of the ease of Facebook live. Sunday Worship the first week we pre-recorded with Zoom and put up a PowerPoint. Feedback from the community said that the people would much rather see our faces than a power-point. This week we will include music people pre-recorded using share screen.

What was successful for us was that after the service people were invited to our “Cup of tea with the vicar,” session where people gathered after worship.  “A cup of tea with the vicar,’ comes from a regular gathering we have in the real world which will be adapted as of next week to a Mon, Wed, Friday space for parishioners to gather on zoom and get support.

  • Rev’d Ben Truman on Zoom:

For those new to Zoom, a test run is a good thing. I scheduled a test for Saturday so that people new to the technology could work through issues before Sunday morning. (Please note: Privacy and copyright issues need to be reflected on. I have made sure our recorded Sunday Zoom session is only available to people with the link. My video was flagged for copyright infringement even as a private video because I used a recorded song.) Zoom has been a helpful tool for solo recording: I simply ‘screen share’ the lectionary readings, collect, and an image during prayer. It means there is easier participation for viewers and less editing at my end. If recording a Zoom session you MUST click the ‘mute all’ feature on Zoom or the audio quality will be awful. In general, I feel the music via Zoom is less than perfect, in fact, downright scratchy, so this week I will be asking a musician to play for us and see if it improves.

  • Rev’d Carolyn Robertson has put in a huge effort with technology, with good, but hard-won, success:

This week we pre-recorded video for both morning worship and then separately the sermon. We did them separately because most of our church attenders don’t go to a liturgical service. It was pretty challenging trying to set it all up and get it working from home especially as we borrowed gear and had some set up issues, but I got our prayer team to intervene and it all came together ok. 

To achieve what we did this week I’ve learnt how to start channels/pages on YouTube, soundcloud and bandcamp. I’ve learnt how to edit sound files and how to film and edit video (using Divinci Resolve) – all in 3 days. I’m saturated with new learnings which can be tiring. It has taken the patience of a number of people talking me through it on the phone and via zoom tutorials and watching YouTube tutorials and googling lots but it has all come together and the end result is working well.

Last week I emailed out sound files of the live service, but the feedback I had was that some couldn’t open them. Today I’ve had an email from someone in her mid-80s thanking me for the service and commenting on the different elements online, so I think it’s accessible for people with some degree of computer literacy. At the moment (as at 3/4/2020) our views of the sermon are 180, of the morning worship service 126 (maybe we’ll convert some of the young people to liturgy??), which is a bit more than a normal Sunday attendance,  but I’ve had appreciative comments coming in all week and even some listening in from Australia and Auckland. So all the learning and time feels worthwhile.

If I was more skilled I would love to do more complicated videos with multiple people etc, but it is a big time investment, especially if everyone’s camera is in a slightly different format… My advice to people that don’t have a reasonable degree of tech savvy, as well as having people on hand that they can call and keep calling, is don’t feel you must do it. Phone people regularly, pray for them on the phone. I think that might be just as appreciated.

  • Rev’d Toby Behan uses a free online platform:

In Rangiora I really wanted to have interactivity, where people were able to comment/chat to one another online. Initially I thought Facebook was the only way to do this. I was going to head that way, but the more information we gathered about our people, the more I saw that Facebook was limiting. If someone doesn’t have an account, they can’t participate live. So, talking with a friend from another church, I found a free web-based platform Church Platform Online, and I think it gives the best of both worlds – live worship AND pre-recording. We used that, and on Sunday we had about 105 people with us for the duration of the service (you can see live stats throughout the service). I would estimate this is about 70% or more of our entire church family.

Church Online is a web-based platform, so no one needs to create an account to participate in a service – you just click on a link, and you are watching the live service. That makes it super easy to access – we had a LOT of elderly people, who often struggle with newer technology, join us. Church Online can be used in various ways, but my process was basically this. I created an account. I pre-recorded a video for Sunday, and uploaded it to Youtube. In Church Online, I created a ‘service’ and scheduled that for 10am on Sunday. Church Online basically lets you link a YouTube video to a particular service. So – at the time you schedule your service – it does all the work for you! It starts playing the YouTube video, and provides a chat window for the people who are gathered to comment to each other. It has a tab for Bible passages as well, and a tab for notes. It has a ‘Request Prayer’ button which can operate live (in a private chat window during a service) – or, if you choose, in offline mode – in which case you receive the prayer request as an email. After our Sunday service I received about ten of these emails, which I will follow up with the other clergy here in Rangiora. For anyone who misses the service, the pre-recording is always there on YouTube. The beauty of this was that on Sunday, there was no pressure on me. I sat down as a ‘host’ which meant I was chatting with people online throughout the service. And you can start simple and develop from there. I should note that like Carolyn, I stitch things together using software. It’s not fancy and I’m no expert. Anything like MovieMaker, or what Carolyn uses will work – anything that lets you combine video files together into one.