Understanding the Room We Are Worshiping In: Old First E-pistle 05.08.20

Understanding the Room We Are Worshiping In: Old First E-pistle 05.08.20

Remember when we struggled along without a working sound system before the Capital Campaign got us the new one? It was not ideal, but usually, I would notice when my voice or someone else’s was not being amplified. I figured that the regulars in our community understood “we’re waiting on the Capital Campaign to deliver us a new sound system; this is annoying, but we can find the patience!” I did worry about what visitors who might not know the whole story would think. But at least in the Sanctuary, I could usually tell if there is a problem with the sound. Likewise, if someone’s having a tough time, I can see them in church, or someone can draw my attention to them, and during a hymn or some such, I can attend to them. 

I begin with that because worship in the Sanctuary is never perfect either. It’s just that we are used to those problems, and no longer find them surprising or even memorable. 

In a great two-hour working-session evaluation of our efforts with zoom worship so far, the Worship SLG realized that we need the “congregation” to understand some things about “where we gather for worship” these days. 

It’s a strange room we find ourselves in. We just moved right in and started worship. But figuratively speaking, we didn’t yet know how to turn on the lights, control the heat or where any of the chairs or mics were to be found. We just jumped in on faith. And, really, we’re kind of proud of how well we are doing, how far we have come. And appreciative that we choose the Zoom route — being together as a community makes so much more sense for us than just watching a service alone at home. 

Still, the Worship SLG wants the congregation to know something about our “GatheringSpace.” It’s kind of a different place for many of us… 

The single biggest thing to know is that as worship leader, Michael is often “flying blind.” That refers to all that he cannot monitor or even see / hear /know. Once he’s screen sharing, he doesn’t see any people. Or the participants’ list with its raised hands, or the chat feed. 

So if something goes wrong, you can’t wave your hands — Michael probably cannot see you at that point. Others could, and I trust them to act accordingly. There have been times when we are worshiping in the Sanctuary and someone is having some trouble, and Michael can usually find a proper time in the service and then go to the person. Not in Zoom worship, however, so he’s empowering you all to take on that kind of essentially deacon’s work. 

Likewise, if there’s something you want Michael to know, don’t tell Michael in the middle of the service via the chat, because he won’t see that until he reads it over Sunday afternoon or even Monday! So, a prayer concern in the chat, will make the prayer list the next Sunday, but Michael won’t know it during worship that day. Also, if you are having some trouble — technical, personal or physical — in church, usually Michael is the one who can see and respond. In Zoom, everyone else is going to be empowered to serve in that role. 

If you think someone is sick or upset, think about how you can check on them. Call or text the person directly, or someone who might be able to help. If you text Michael to his phone, it’s right next to him during worship, and he often gets those messages. But his hands are pretty full for that hour! You could also reach out to one of our Co-Moderators, Bobbie or Julie. Or to someone else you know well in the church, or someone you think might be able to help the person you are concerned about. 

Remember how John O. used to come up to the side of the chancel and give Michael a note or whisper something to me? There’s no whispering possible on Zoom. Remember how Holly had to “interrupt” and ask Michael about the sound when we got to the second song last week? She was right, because Michael cannot tell what you are hearing. (He can see on the second computer in the office what you are seeing, but he has no way of knowing what you are hearing.) 

We want worship to be as rich as possible for you, so let us know what’s going on and what you need. We are just going to have to understand this about Zoom — the leader the church relies on in worship cannot do as much by himself in the office on the other side of his computer, so that makes all of you more leaders. Zoom is “very Protestant” that way! 

Also, please understand, there are just vagaries involved in relying on the internet. It’s actually a miracle, but it’s not perfect. Last week, we had the system set right, but it had to be reset before the music played right? Likewise, most of the time the host and co-hosts can unmute folks, but sometimes that doesn’t work? I was on someone else’s Zoom call last week, and suddenly the host couldn’t share her screen. It’s just a complex system that has grown exponentially in the last two months, and not everything always works. 

Last week, two people reported that the slides were not clear — “I couldn’t pray or sing along” —  what happened? That is most surely the internet at your end. Americans are using the internet at such high rates these days, sometimes there’s just too much traffic even for digital information. And the system slows down; or under duress of high traffic, your server starts to provide lower quality audio or video, or drops your connection completely. 

There’s nothing church can do. There’s not much you can do either — though someone suggested that Zoom should be the only open tab you have while at church! (Honestly, they suggest that other open programs can be a drag on your internet!) And, someone told me if you are really having problems, it sometimes helps if you leave the meeting and come back in (like all technology, restart and see if that helps!)

And you can always say a prayer, find patience and know that God’s love is bigger than bad internet connections. 

There is one thing you really can do to help. Stay muted when you are not speaking. That improves the sound for everyone on the call. Our co-hosts are busy muting people who unmute themselves– you might be unmuting by accident, by tapping your space bar! 

So, beloved, we are all in this virtual “room” together. And that’s pretty amazing. 

We don’t have as much control over the space as we’d like, but well, that’s honest, and life. Most important, we are together. And, as we always know at Old First, glitches need not be cried over. Sometimes they are the only way the Spirit gets to us. 

We’re still doing everything we can to make our online experience feel like church, share the Spirit, feel deeper and more spiritual. One thing you could do, before you get on Zoom early and get all chatty with everyone (it’s a lovely pre-worship fellowship time!), is take a minute of prayer. 

Pray for me and Holly and Bill. For all the leaders in that day’s worship. For the liturgy — that it may rise to truly be “the work of the people” as we praise God. And likewise, the music, may it lift your heads and your hearts toward heaven. Worship, glitches and all, will always be richer when its way has been cleared by prayer. 

See you “in church,”