Online Interactive Worship Project
(Connecting in Worship)
The Uniting Church in Balhannah 2018
Members of the community with auditory and visual challenges.
Providing quality and interactive worship experiences to people who find it hard to access such experiences through mobility and sensory challenges.
Our church, like many others, faces the challenges and opportunities of offering engaging and useful worship services to members who are experiencing sensory and mobility challenges. We are getting older, deafer, blinder and slower. Now, more than ever in our lives, our worshipping experience sustains our hope, faith and sense of connection with the body of Christ.
For the past 15 years Balhannah UCA has video recorded its worship services. For the past 15 years BUCA has also provided “Closed Captioning” for its worship services. Both of these facilities have added significant value to our worship for members who find it difficult to hear, see and generally process the content of worship services, especially as they age. We want to take those skills and our experience to another level. We want to create an online product that can bring quality, mainstream worship to more people. Especially those who currently find it difficult to attend services. Two features of worship at Balhannah lend themselves to this.
- We are a “normal” small church. We are the church you grew up in. There is a high “dag” factor to our worship which values kindliness, good humour and inclusion.
- We pray. A lot. Members at BUC can spend a third of the service at prayer. More if you count singing as a form of prayer.
The appearance of products like “Facebook Live” and “Youtube Live” simplify and “flatten” the technical requirements of both making quality material available online and providing a great “back channel” for interaction. People beyond the gathered congregation to participate, even in “realtime”
The object is to go beyond the common goal of providing an “online window” into a worship service or do “Church on TV”. We want to work towards building a common unity of people both gathered in a worship space and gathered online.
Malcolm is in a nursing home. He has been a faithful member of a church all his life but is now unable to travel. He also finds it hard to hear in crowded conversations. He has learned to use a computer to use email, manage his banking and read the news. His daughter has signed him up to Facebook and now he uses it a couple of times a week. He likes that it gives him a way to connect with friends and family. On a Sunday morning his daughter can help him go to the BUC Facebook page and see the worship service playing live. When it comes time for the prayers of Intercession he can type (or speak) in his own prayer requests that are gathered up into the prayers of the congregation to help Malcolm feel part of this worshipping community.
Connection with the body of Christ. Offering worship that allows for interaction to those normally isolated and disconnected.
We already have many of the needed components in place within our worship. This year we have been working to upgrade our technology and worship facilities towards this goal.
Personnel and Management
We currently have members familiar with audio and video production and others who would be keen to learn. We have some members with excellent IT skills, especially in building internet services. The congregation has identified this as a new area of mission and is supporting the developmental phase. Our minister is building the vision and team.
Promotion and Evaluation
A key part of this work will be to build partnerships with caring agencies that support folk with mobility and sensory challenges. To do this we will need a quality product that will give confidence to service providers.
We need 2 PTZ video Cameras and new sanctuary lighting to improve the quality of our video. We estimate that this would cost $10,000.00. We have already invested over $10,000.00 in upgrading our sound systems, data projection and internet connectivity to assist in this project.
Our risk assessment is currently in the hands of an experienced assessor and will be forwarded soon.
There are opportunities for the wider church to work with us in this space. While many churches are looking at how they make their services available online we want to go a step further and look at how we can build the worshipping body of Christ beyond our local gathering with deeper interaction than simple “Church on the screen.” We would love to work with other congregations and groups on this. There is significant potential for growth in this area of ministry.