Worshiping Together - in a new way
Over 300 years ago, parishioners had to travel by horse and buggy to attend a church service. What do you think our ancestors would think of our "worship over the airwaves"? It's even hard for many of us to realize that we can share our corporate worship "virtually" every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and it can be seen on a computer, cell phone, and for some on their TV set!
In mid-March, with the Corona Virus spreading, our church services for March 15th and 22nd were cancelled. We were asked to pray together at the time when we would normally be in our church service. And, on March 15th, Bishop Brown offered one of the first virtual services live on the internet from St. Peter's in Lewes. We all hoped we'd be back to our "normal" activities and worship in a week or two. Sadly, that was not to be and on April 5th, Palm Sunday, Father Kim offered a service in the parish parking lot. Then, we faced the challenge of Easter.
We were grateful that technology enabled us to share a virtual service. Actually, we offered a short service streamed live on Facebook live and then an edited service that included additional music and scenes of the church on YouTube. We were in uncharted waters. It became clear that things would not return to normal for some time. So, we were faced with the challenge of, how could we offer a meaningful weekly service sharing the Word, within the constraints of Covid19 safety guidelines? Over the next months, we tested different technology to offer a "live" worship service at 9:30 Sunday morning.
In mid-July, Bruce Vrana, Keith St. John, and Cindy Fauerbach attended a ZOOM training offered by our diocese of Delaware. We heard what other churches were doing and learned about a grant program being offered to every church in the diocese. The diocese's Barnabas Technology Grant provides up to $2500 for each parish to purchase technology items that will enable the parish to share their worship, God's Word, and stay connected. We were excited and wanted to see what we might be able to do and tap into these funds!
We reached out to other parishes and the diocesan staff for ideas on what would work for St. James'. We realized St. James' has additional challenges because our parish hall and internet access is across the street from the church. Bruce, Fr. Kim, and Keith worked together using their cell phones, "hot spots", and other technology to provide a weekly service. In late July, we purchased a camera (with a 30 day return policy and with the hope that it would be covered by the Barnabas grant) that would provide a better quality picture, offer some movement, and enhanced audio. From week to week we learned new and better ways to offer worship and also faced a few "technical challenges/glitches" as well.
Fr. Kim and a St. James' Covid task force met and drafted plans that addressed keeping our worship safe as well as meaningful. And, a major challenge was how could we have singing in church and still be safe. Thanks to our music director Keith St. John and his adult children, Dana Garcia and Ken Weichert, they are offering their gifts of music and song by pre-recording our hymns weekly in the St. John's living room accompanied by their piano. Then hymns are played during the Sunday services and Keith augments the selections with live accompaniment on our church organ. We are blessed and thank them for sharing their musical talents.
The technology team developed a preliminary technology plan and requesting about half of the $2500 that is available from the diocese's Barnabas grant to fund hardware that allows us to continue and even expand our worship offerings. We received a quick response of support and funding from the diocese. We are very GRATEFUL for the diocese's forward thinking and support.
From the middle of March to the end of August, we were not able to "come together" to worship in person and providing a virtual service was our only option for sharing our service. Then, on August 23rd we were able to start offering an in-person service for a limited number of people in the church and continued to share the service using Facebook live for those unable to join the physical service. Offering services virtually, is a growing and continuing ministry.
We have so much to be grateful for and many to thank. From the start, Bruce was our technical director/cinematographer and he continues. We are grateful that Ian Prescott will join Bruce in this role and would welcome additional help. We thank our St. James' technology team, Bruce, Keith, Fr. Kim, Ian, Steve, and Cindy. And, we thank Bishop Brown and the diocesan staff for providing the Barnabas technology grant.
Stay tuned--who knows what is next. But, with God's help, we'll make it happen!