We have had a “hybrid” worship service for about two and half months now. Since mid-June, we have held small, in-person gatherings on Sunday mornings and have live streamed these services on our Youtube channel. Someone asked me the other day what has been the most surprising thing about my first three years at Holy Apostles. The first thing that came to mind is that I would never have predicted three years ago that I would become a tele-evangelist. I am still surprised that during this pandemic we have adapted so well to be able to produce an hour long Youtube video every week. Of course, this would not have happened, and it would not continue to happen without the dedication and ingenuity of some talented and knowledgeable folks.
Those of you who have been to an indoor Eucharist lately know that the stuff we need in order to produce our online videos is sort of in the way. The biggest distraction for in-person worshippers is a camcorder on a tripod set up next to the baptismal font, and right in front of the pulpit. Faithful volunteers move the camcorder throughout the service in order to capture the readings, sermon, and music. I have not heard any complaints, of course. We’re all just happy to have church. But I also know that it is jarring and distracting to prayer. It has worked well as a short-term solution. However, it has become clear that this pandemic is not a short-term problem. As awful as it has been, this time has allowed us to imagine further ways that we can be witnesses to God’s love on the internet. With that in mind, the vestry decided to invest in technology that will allow us to continue to livestream our services—and vastly improve the video quality of those live streams—while also getting rid of that unsightly tripod in the middle of the worship space. So, we’ve contracted with an audio-visual company to install a remote controlled camera with a powerful optical zoom lens in the back of the nave (near the exit sign). This camera will be able to capture everything that happens in our service in high definition. Operated from the “command center” which has taken over our old organ loft, the camera will be completely out of the way. It’s going to be pretty cool, but it will take a few weeks for all the parts to arrive and for the installation to happen.
All that is left to say is that I am incredibly grateful. I am grateful to the technology folks who know what they’re doing and have made it possible to stay connected during this difficult time. I am grateful for the leadership of the vestry and their willingness and imagination to adapt to new circumstances. I am grateful to those who have attended in-person worship and have faithfully taken care of each other by social distancing and wearing masks. I am grateful for those who have joined us by watching online and who have contributed to our service using digital technology, including friends from around the country. I am incredibly grateful that our parish’s pledging income has not decreased despite this difficult time, and grateful that this parish’s generosity toward those in need has, in fact, increased through an incredible outpouring of gifts to the Darby Mission and other outreach. I am grateful most of all to God who never leaves us nor forsakes us; God who hears our prayers no matter where we pray or how good our WiFi is. God is faithful to us and God gives us the patience to be faithful to each other in return.