After a few Sundays preaching at one particular church, a supply preacher finally asked why, when the congregation stood for the Apostles’ Creed, everyone turned to the back of the sanctuary to recite it. It took asking a few people to get the explanation. Many years earlier, a saint of the church had made a banner with the creed written on it, to help teach the congregation the creed. It hung - you guessed it - on the back wall of the sanctuary! The banner had long since come down, but the practice remained.
When COVID first hit, we all made a number of changes to stay safe. We dutifully measured distances, had fewer than 10 of us in the Sanctuary to live stream worship, and put away the germ-ridden hymnals! We also added a song leader - a soloist to sing congregational music with piano accompaniment to help lead the worship for those at home.
When we started to return to hybrid worship, we invited those early church house worshipers to participate in song and responses softly, while fully masked, of course, to limit particulates in the air. We encouraged people to use their tablets or smart phones to access the bulletins and hymn PDFs online, and had the words projected on the TV, and we had a few paper copies of that simplified bulletin in case folks needed it. A few hymnals were placed at the usher stand outside of the sanctuary, ready to offer as requested (they’re still there). We also had limited seating and an RSVP system.
We’ve expanded seating, and long ago eliminated the RSVP. We found that most people were still wanting to get a paper copy of the bulletin, and so recently we went back to a more traditional booklet format, which is both easier to follow and more aesthetically pleasing. In other words, we’re continuing to grow into the ever-changing realities of being a hybrid congregation in a reality of an endemic virus.
We have an *incredible* livestream. I challenge you to find a better livestream. Period. I’ve looked at many! Huge congregations with big budgets might have the best equipment possible, but even then, viewing from online often feels more like observation than participation. Our tech team goes above and beyond to think about the online worship experience, and make sure it isn’t an afterthought. This is such a gift.
One of the challenges we’ve experienced is how best to translate congregational singing to the hybrid format. Hymns are written to be sung in community, and Trinity has always been a singing congregation! But congregational singing is very hard to transmit online in a way that invites those worshiping online to join in as part of the congregation. Go back and look at any other church livestream, and you’ll see what I’m talking about!
We are so blessed to have the very best experts in both video production and music right here in our congregation. Over the next few weeks and months, we’re going to be trying out some different ideas with tech and music, to see if there is a better and more inclusive way forward. You’ll probably notice some changes, either here in person or viewing online, and things may be different from week to week.
I’d like to ask for a few things. First and foremost, I invite us all to have patience and grace as we figure things out together, recognizing that with all of the various factors, we’re not going to arrive at “perfect,” even as we try to perfect what we’re doing. Second, if you are worshiping at the church house, don’t be afraid to sing out! One of the other changes we’ve just made is bringing more hymnals into the worship space, so sing loud, proud, and in parts, if you feel so led! Third, whether you are joining us online or in person, let us know what you think. The VERY BEST WAY to do that is to send an email to either Victoria and/or me. We can gather feedback and pass it along to the full team here.
Finally, if you are so inclined, we welcome new volunteers to sign up for and be trained to work on the tech team. Did you know that each week, there are SEVEN tech roles that need to be filled? Sometimes individuals wear more than one hat on a given Sunday, but we’re able to do what we do best when fully covered. The team will provide training and support. If you can click through sides in a powerpoint presentation, or if you can navigate Facebook, there is a place for you to serve. Expressing appreciation is great; learning to be part of the team, to help provide some breathing room in the rotation for everyone, is really excellent! You can indicate your willingness to serve - on tech or with music - on the Time and Talent forms: https://forms.gle/8dodCafTrkjSJnKF8
I can’t sing the praises of our tech team and music leaders enough (see what I did there?)! Thank you to all of our singers and pianists, and to the tech team who has worked so faithfully and capably. I’ll say it again - we are so blessed!
Grace and Peace,