As I entered retirement, I was looking for a purpose I could set my time and abilities toward doing. Most of the opportunities I had pre-pandemic were on hold indefinitely (and still are). Having helped with the sanctuary sound system on occasion, I was intrigued when I learned of plans to install video technology into the sanctuary, so I quickly volunteered to help.
I am proud of the work our church has done to keep worship going throughout the Pandemic. We never missed a Sunday worship, even though the world was falling apart around us. The very first Sunday in
lockdown we had worship broadcasted live from the sanctuary, using a cell phone. Today we have in-person worship and virtual worship. Where we are today is light years ahead of where we were in March 2020.
Here is a rundown of the technology capabilities we have today: our sanctuary sound system was already in place as part of the Imagine capital campaign. It features multiple input locations throughout the chancel, wireless and wired microphones, an ALS system (hearing impaired), and an audio mixer, which can be operated from the sanctuary using an iPad. It has served us well. You have likely seen Margaret Stine operating it. Additionally, Jeff Coleman and I have served as back up.
As we moved cautiously back to in-person worship, new technology was needed. We wanted to be able to record worship services, and provide elements of that service to the virtual worship community. We wanted to create safe spaces within our building for people who wished to attend in-person, but did not feel comfortable in the sanctuary.
Presently, we can broadcast from the Sanctuary to the Lounge (for families with children), and the library (for people with health concerns). We will be adding these capabilities to the Youth room, Choir room, and O-Hall in the future. This is accomplished with physical wiring that originates in the sanctuary. Additionally, these spaces will serve as teleconferencing (Zoom) rooms. The Sanctuary is central to this because of the installation of a media controller (Tricaster) and cameras, now integrated into our Sanctuary system. The Tricaster is a professional broadcast audio and video mixer, which allows the operator to create a continuous recording, and follow the central worship elements with varying camera angles, in real time. It is run by a Windows 10 PC with propriety software and unique audio and video capabilities.
Worship services are recorded from two different angles using the cameras and existing audio mixer. At the end of worship, these two feeds are uploaded to a Dropbox, where James Krick receives them andintegrates parts into the evening virtual worship. This ability has also enabled us to give recordings to loved ones after memorial services.
More recently, we realized that we needed capability to broadcast what is happening in the sanctuary to the outside world, such as for memorials, christenings, and other events where friends and family cannot attend in person. This is more complicated to accomplish. For one thing, we need a secure online place to host a broadcast for people to watch. We also need the internet bandwidth and infrastructure to operate all of the teleconference rooms, sanctuary equipment, and broadcast. Several experiments with broadcasting events led us to using the Zoom Webinar feature. Essentially, this involves broadcasting from the sanctuary via a one-way Zoom.
We are still learning all of the capabilities our technology has to offer. Much of the infrastructure has not been installed yet, but is in the works. For all of this we owe gratitude to our church leadership, who had the vision and found ways to make this happen.
Call for volunteers
Presently, we have three people who are part of the Sanctuary technology team (Margaret Stine, Jeff Coleman, and myself). It takes two people to operate the systems for worship, and three if there is a Zoom Webinar happening. Fortunately, there are three of us. That being said, it means having a week off is noteasily done. Three of us doing this every Sunday is not sustainable. Which brings me to this invitation to join us: If you are looking for a way to help the church, contribute to worship, and do something good for our virtual community, please consider joining us in this important work. We need people who are willing to learn our new systems and be part of the team operating them during worship. You do not need to know how to do any of this. We will teach you. All of us started from zero knowledge to accomplishing what we can do today. Only one of us is an actual IT person and understands Windows (Jeff!). Nevertheless, we have learned together and will happily share with anyone wanting to join the team. It is our goal to have a handful of folks able to operate our systems, so that we can have a rotating schedule of people available. If you are interested and would like to join our team, feel free to contact one of us. I can be reached at: email@example.com.
If you are curious and want to see what is involved, talk to one of use after worship. We can offer tours of our system and answer your questions. Personally, I am very excited about the possibilities and new ways we will find to utilize the incredible resources.
Submitted by Vince Santo Pietro