Getting Back In the Groove…
Apologies for being quiet for so long. I’ve refrained from posting because I wanted to be able to share what I’ve learned after adapting to our new normals. What has worked, what has not.
Here’s the honest truth: we are still learning. Still adapting. Still trying to discern the best way to reach our assemblies in their homes and ‘virtually’ on their computers, TV’s, and other devices.
Obviously, all parishes are different and what works for us might not work for you, and vice-versa, but I hope you might find a single helpful idea here. So…here’s what we’ve been doing:
We’ve been webcasting for awhile at Saint Ann’s (my parish), so the concept wasn’t really new to us. We did, however, endure some major equipment failure during Holy Week and had to replace and relearn almost everything. We got through it and have been tweaking it ever since. That was particularly nerve-wracking because the numbers of people watching went through the roof! We have about 1200 devices logging on during our 10:30 Mass at this time. Easter was over 2000. Our bills went so high that we had to switch providers.
But we, like you I’m sure, have been pressing on the best we can, working hard to give the best online experience possible for our parish family. Here are a few things that have worked out nicely:
Online Worship Aid
Each week we post a pdf on the parish website that is an online worship aid for the entire liturgy. People can open it on a separate device or print it out ahead of time.
Pre Mass ‘Slides’
As people are waiting for the Mass to begin, we encourage them to sign on early and, during that time, we show a virtual bulletin. The subject matter varies depending on the week and, perhaps, would even advertise upcoming ‘live’ events. For example, one of the slides contains an explanation of how to give online. It’s also a great time to show videos or any other parish announcement.
Pre-recorded Lector Videos
Every week the same small number of people would ‘staff’ the Mass. The first several weeks we had two staff members proclaim the readings. Recently we moved to asking different lectors to pre-record themselves with their phone or computer. During the Mass/webcast we show these videos at the appropriate time. (Those of us in the church can “listen in” while they are playing back.) It was a nice change and helped involve the parish and see familiar faces on the screen. Every week we ask different people to record the readings. They do so in their homes, in a comfortable setting.
Live Audio Mix
We’ve spent some time getting the audio so that it’s pleasing to the online listener. Our priest mics and the ambo are pretty much direct (dry) signals from the soundboard. They do not have as much reverb or room sound. By doing this the priest and lectors sound loud and clear.
The music, however, has a more ambient sound. Most people are used to hearing the music ‘live’ in the church, not coming directly from the soundboard. We’ve placed two ‘choir’ mics in the back of the church up high and mixed them into the music signal. It works well. It sounds like you are in the room while the music is happening. Music heard directly from a soundboard can sometimes be very harsh and unforgiving!
Instead of one single static camera shot for the entire liturgy, we use multiple cameras and switch between them with a small video switcher. We’ve had to run lot of cables everywhere, and even have a person stand at one of the cameras to change the perspective. It adds so much to the webcast. It’s much more interesting and enjoyable for the viewer.
Lots of Light
Normally, at our weekend liturgies, we change the lighting at the start of Mass, during the consecration, and again at the Great Amen. While we have been webcasting these past weeks, however, we have been running at full lights. More light=better video.
I was pretty much prepared to lead the music on my own, and would gladly have done it. Fortunately, my wife and kids are very musical and sang and played every week with me. Eventually we added another singer and a guitarist (6 feet apart!) Today, we added a bass player.
It’s about to get very different…again! This coming weekend, the Feast of Pentecost, the Archdiocese of Atlanta is opening churches for public Masses on a reduced capacity basis. People are signing up online. We are preparing for a maximum of 120 people or so at each Mass (4). The experience is going to be very different than what we have ever done, and what we have been doing. We will continue fine-tuning our streaming efforts while welcoming a small assembly, spaced out in the pews, donning face-masks, social-distancing, not holding hands, etc. More adapting, and more learning, but with light at the end of the tunnel!
Again, obviously, all parishes are different and what works for us might not work for you, and vice-versa, but I hope you might find a single helpful idea here.
I will be posting some Song Ideas for Pentecost on Monday, May 25. I hope you find something useful for your parish during this time!
Here is a link to our parish Vimeo page which contains links to all of our streamed liturgies:
Here is a direct link today’s liturgy: (please forgive the blue tape on some of the pews…we’re planning seating for next week!)