One of the neat things about this strange time is that we all have the opportunity to “go to church” in many different places. Different congregations are doing things differently, and from time to time I get questions about the different ways of doing church online. Here’s an overview of the main ways worship happens these days and a few of their strengths/weaknesses.
St. Luke’s did Facebook Live worship the first few months of the pandemic. One or a handful of worship leaders do the service while anyone on facebook can join “in real time.” The poster can choose whether or not to have the service available for later viewing (we did).
Strengths: Real time interaction among congregation through commenting, worship leaders see comments and number of participants. Can be done with any equipment, does not need special knowledge. Fairly easy to access by members and others. People can access worship when it’s convenient for them. Easy for visitors to join in.
Weaknesses: Live aspect means that if the celebrant’s wifi goes down, the service can’t happen/continue, and that distractions/interruptions may happen. Very limited number of worship leaders.
A number of congregations are doing full Zoom worship. Every participant joins by Zoom and worships in real time together. (This may or may not be recorded and posted elsewhere after the service, or also livestreamed.)
Strengths: Participants get to see (and sometimes hear) one another. Shared leadership of services.
Weaknesses: Impossible to stay together when speaking as a group. All must worship at the designated time. Somewhat regularly, there is not bandwidth to livestream a zoom worship. Limited to those who have the Zoom information. More difficult for parishioners to access. Impossible for visitors/strangers to join service.
This is how we are now offering worship at St. Luke’s. Worship leaders hold a small service earlier in the week which is recorded and posted at the designated time
Strengths: More members involved in worship leadership. Can be rescheduled or redone if issues arise. Worshipers can interact by commenting when post goes live, or can worship when convenient to them. Easy for visitors to join.
Weaknesses: Leaders are all in separate spaces, so in order to have singing with the organ the celebrant must be elsewhere. Limits leadership involvement to those who can be present at recording time.
Recorded Individually and Edited
This is how the National Cathedral and several local congregations provide worship these days. It is how our Youth Service was created several weeks ago. Different worship leaders record their parts at different times. All these recordings are shared with an editor who creates the service out of these pieces and posts for viewing.
Strengths: This worship looks best and feels most familiar. Easy for visitors to join.
Weaknesses: Increased stress on organizer who must ensure all recordings are available by designated time. All worship leaders need access to and knowledge of recording equipment or a cameraperson available to record. Editing takes 4-30 hours per week with software and training. For worship leaders, often speaking your part alone into a camera doesn’t feel like worship.
Something I realized after participating in our first edited service is how deeply I need “liturgy.” Liturgy comes from the Greek which means “work of the people.” Even in this strange coronatide, I need us somehow to be together in worship through more than just editing. When we worshiped by Facebook Live, I watched as your comments scrolled by and felt us participating in this liturgy together. When we gather for Wednesday noonday prayers on Zoom, we participate in liturgy together. The way we currently do Spiritual Communion, the other worship leaders and I actually do liturgy together as we record the service. I need that.
Does liturgy as “the work of the people” matter to you?
How are you feeling connected to worship and to St. Luke’s during this time of social distancing?