of Asbury First
Right: An over-the-shoulder view from the pulpit shows the empty pews.
e all certainly miss the Sunday mornings where we would happily walk into the sanctuary, greeting familiar faces along with the new ones, waving “Hi,” and giving a few handshakes or hugs. As we sat down, we could take in the sacred space and prepare ourselves to join in the communal act of worship and love. At least, that is the way it used to be.
Now, you wake up, get a nice cup of coffee, and settle in on the couch in your pajamas (if you so choose) as you log in to the live-stream worship service from your computer or television. You check-in online and send a message of greeting, thanks, or support. You browse through the bulletin online while the screen flashes with announcements and submitted pictures of our community at home. Then, the beautiful prelude begins, and you are hopefully transported to the same feeling of communal worship even if we are all separate.
But, have you ever thought about what goes into creating the live stream service? This respite from the constant string of heavy news and the wariness of online meetings requires a great deal of preparation. Here is a look at the behind the scenes work that our staff and volunteers do every week to facilitate a meaningful, community connection during the hour that you spend with us online.
BEHIND THE SCENES
August 19, 2020
NEW FEATURE: Hover over the text to scroll through to read, then continue on next page
A Glimpse at Sunday Worship
Photos and Story by Sarah Brubaker
So much work goes into preparing a service. Choosing the scripture lesson, coordinating with the staff for liturgy and hymns, and meeting with the Tech Team all ensure that we have coverage for every aspect of the service.
“Personally, the work that goes into a sermon begins and ends with prayer—asking that God would speak,” Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady said. “The most important thing I do on a weekly basis is preaching the gospel, which means responding to the movement of the Spirit in the moment. Then, it is paying attention to what is happening in the world, in the nation, in our community, and in the life of the congregation and humbly attempting to respond.”
Once the scripture and sermon concepts are selected, the staff works together to create the remainder of the service. “I continue to do several of the same things I would do for a ‘normal’ service,” Director of Music Ministry Carl Johengen commented. “I select hymns and choral pieces to go along with the Scripture or sermon theme; compose the responsive readings for the call to worship, the prayer of confession, and prayer of dedication; and gather together information for the bulletin,”
Carl and Organist Duane Prill work on the music to keep a cohesive feel to the service. “After finding out the scripture for the week, I select a prelude and postlude that either ‘fits’ the scripture, or is ‘general’ in nature,” Duane said. “Then I get the anthem and hymn selections from Carl. If I know the individual selections, practice is a matter of bringing them back up to ‘performance level.’ If the music is new to me, I practice with various methods to ensure I know the notes, phrasing, articulation, fingerings, and organ registration changes very well by Sunday.”
Every Sunday morning at 10:30 am, Duane Prill, Jordan Bachmann, Bess Phillips, Susan Huppé, Carl Johengen, and Dan McInerney practice the hymns and songs for the upcoming worship service.
Director of Children’s Ministry Paula Dugan also connects the central sermon theme with the Children’s Time in the service. “First, I read the scripture for the service, and then I talk to Stephen to see what direction he is going with his sermon,” she explained. “Then, I think like a kid and try to figure out how they would relate to it.”
With the theme set, graphic presentations, visuals, and sound checks round out the weekly, pre-Sunday work. Carl noted that “since changing over to the live stream service, my principal new duty is entering all of this information into the system that generates the caption slides, which you see during the live stream. Over several weeks in March and April, I worked alongside Sarah Brubaker, Kenny Bailey, and others from the Tech Team to achieve the ideal ‘look’ for these slides.”
After the mid-week tech team check-in—and after Carl has finished creating the ProPresenter slideshow for the upcoming Sunday service—Video Operator Kenny Bailey noted “that I proof the slideshow two or three times before Sunday, including a final run through the morning of the service.”
Once the new video system was up and running, the use of pre-recorded videos to showcase members of our community was added to keep the connection fresh. “Each week,” Audio Operator Rich Church said, “I review the bulletin and talk with ministers and staff about the mixture of pre-recorded and live segments to work out cues for sound and video.” Kenny added that the Sunday morning run through with the bulletin includes the pastors and any other participants for any last-minutes changes, verification of camera shots to use for specific features, and more.
The Tech Team and volunteers that run the Multimedia Control Room go through a long checklist to ensure that the cameras, slides, and sound equipment are ready for the live stream each week. “We check that the chancel video monitors are on, and then for sound, I make sure the sanctuary system is turned on early, and each microphone input is tested by listening to it in the booth,” Rick said. “Stephen's radio mic signal is unique as it is always on, with audio muted until he switches it on to speak.”
Clockwise from Top: Paula Dugan prepares for the service in the Pastor's Study with Jimmy the Puppet. Property Care Manager James Flack lights the candles. Carl Johengen and Stephen Cady finalize details before the service begins.
Leading up to the live stream, the video operator starts the live stream and begins the pre-service slideshow. “If there were pre-recorded sermon segments, such as a previous service choir piece, or special services—e.g. Youth Sunday, Good Friday—then I'll edit the videos where necessary, adding them to the service slideshow and test the flow,” Kenny commented.
Finally, all of the preparations are complete, and the service begins. Rick checks with Duane for the length of the prelude and sets an alarm on his phone for one minute before the prelude begins. “I turn on the organist signal at 30 seconds prior,” Rick explained. “Duane flashes the signal light as he is about to start, which is our signal to begin recording and bring up the audio to the webcast.”
Once the live stream begins, the service is underway, and the Tech Team ensures that any issues are corrected, and any comments receive a friendly greeting. The audio and video operators are responsible for verifying the radio station connection, webcast, and bringing up the website check-ins log on a PC monitor to scan for any trouble or notes of interest.
Video Operator Kenny Bailey switches between cameras using the upgraded video system.
Clockwise from Top Left: Audio Operator Rick Church and Kenny Bailey set up the monitors, which allow the participants in the service to see what is actually on screen during the live stream. Back in the Multimedia Control Room, Rick works on the sound to ensure a stable audio, and screens show the different camera angles.
Adjusting to an Empty Sanctuary
The state-wide lockdown that began in March came swift on the heels of a staff brainstorming session that covered how we would handle the lack of in-person attendance. Thankfully, our live stream capabilities were already established, but there were still plenty of growing pains along the way to our current services.
A video hardware and software upgrade took our online services to a new level. According to Rick, “the new tech toys for video have allowed us to really up our video game, as well as better monitor the audio broadcast.” He added, “I enjoy it best when I focus on the message and what I have to do to make it sound best. That's a win-win situation! As we open back up, it will be fun training our volunteer tech team on the new gear and procedures.”
But, the visuals weren’t the only thing needing adjustment—the participants in the service also had significant changes to handle. Duane said that his least favorite part of the live-streaming service is the fact that there is no congregation there to sing robustly on the hymns. “I really miss this collaborative moment,” he added.
In the absence of bringing the full choir together, using previously recorded musical performances is a pleasant reminder of what Asbury First has to offer. “I really miss the presence of the Asbury Singers and the Sanctuary Choir,” Carl noted. “On Pentecost, at the moment that the folks in the booth began playing back the archived performance of the Festival Choir singing Spirit of Love, I really was overcome by a sense of loss that we are unable to have our singers in the chancel during the pandemic.”
The view from the Multimedia Control Room of the sanctuary is a little different. The red and green lights are used to indicate to the participants that the stream is live.
The lack of energetic children running up to the chancel is also a notable loss, but good can come from this situation as well. Paula said that not seeing the children’s faces is the hardest part, but points out that there are benefits too. She explained, “when I’m doing the Children’s Time, I look at the camera and envision that I’m talking to only one child. Also, this is the first time in a very long time that I get to sit in the service and listen to Stephen preach. I usually have to take the children out for Enrichment time. I feel blessed and honored to be a part of our live streaming worship services.”
Kenny mentioned that he loves the insight into the pastors and participants' morning routines leading up to the Sunday 11 am services. “I'd never seen the morning practices and ‘warm-ups’ prior to the tally lights illuminating for the prelude,” he said. “To me, these are almost ‘humanizing,’ very personal moments that congregants (much less booth techies) would never get to see.”
The soloists and other participants have done a marvelous job in creating a service that is as close as possible to a typical Sunday morning, despite the situation. “While I much prefer being with people in person, this time apart has forced me to trust the Holy Spirit to be at work connecting our community,” Stephen remarked. “It sounds strange, but I really can feel a difference when the green light goes on in the booth, and I know the live stream is on. I can feel people there.”
While we are grateful that we can worship together virtually, we cannot wait until we can be together again at our stunning campus and in our breathtaking sanctuary. What joy when we can greet those we haven’t seen in a while and can join in fellowship together in God’s love! Until then: “God be with you till we meet again; by his counsel’s guide, uphold you; with his sheep, securely fold you; God be with you till we meet again.”
The view from the lectern shows monitors and a sign with the Join Text number.
Communications Process During a Pandemic
“Every week, the visual graphics and communication pieces, such as the bulletin, e-blast, and social media posts, are integral for community worship in a virtual setting. Since moving to an online-only platform, the ways that I can spread information about our services, events, and outreach have significantly narrowed. But, the main item each week is getting the bulletin ready for Sunday.
I work with the pastoral and musical staff to create the bulletin for Sunday morning’s service. Due to working from home, we changed the production process and now use an online system from LucidPress to create the weekly bulletin, which allows for a more accessible and more collaborative online proofing process. Carl and Stephen (or minister preaching that week), input the main service order including the hymns, prayers, and sermon title.
Next, I update the trivia question and add the images from #asburyfirstathome. Each week, Children’s Ministry Assistant Holly Temming scours social media and collects the posts from Sunday, which I use in the bulletin and the pre-service slides. I am all too happy to add pictures of people watching the service at home (or even out and about), and especially enjoy when the family pet gets included!
I then work on the statistics from the past Sunday by looking over the analytics numbers and finding exciting tidbits to highlight. Each week offers a new discovery, such as having a pretty consistent viewer in Toronto, Canada and in Busan, South Korea. It is interesting to see the scale of our connection to the world online while I build the info-graphic on the back page. Next, the staff and our intrepid copy editors, Miriam Derivan and David Crawford, proof the bulletin. Once edits are made and the bulletin is finished, it is posted online for all to use and reference.
Of course, the bulletin isn’t the only way I communicate with you all every week.
I also post updates on our website, work with Holly to create the weekly e-blast, use social media to engage with our community, and work on the Visitor@Home to keep us connected even while we are apart.
I hope you enjoy learning about our global connections as much as I enjoy communicating this information with all of you!"
— Sarah Brubaker, Communications Coordinator
There have been a few times (especially early on) when we didn’t know the audio was rolling before the prelude began!”
— Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady
Both funny and tragic is seeing everyone wearing masks on Sunday morning. I am glad I already know what everyone looks like!”
— Duane Prill
Of course, no behind-the-scenes story would be complete without the “gag reel.”
Not everything goes to plan, and sometimes funny or accidental moments happen.
It is funny to see Jimmy the Puppet crawling across the floor to get to his spot during the service.”
— Paula Dugan
One Sunday morning, I woke up to an alert from an eagle-eyed member that the bulletin link hadn’t been updated, so they wouldn't be able to follow along with the service. I jumped on the computer and corrected the link before the service began.”
— Sarah Brubaker
There have been a few crashes of stacks in the sound room. With all the recent changes, it's pretty messy up there—more so than usual.”
— Rick Church
I switched to the lectern shot a tad too early for the recent Asbury First Town Hall and caught a masked Stephen still reviewing the submitted questions. Oops!”
— Kenny Bailey