Posted by: smstrouse | July 8, 2017

Getting Ready for “Zoom Church”

The-Medium-is-The-Massage-Installation13All the way back in 1967, Marshall McLuhan wrote his classic book The Medium is The Massage. In 2015, Keith Anderson begins his book, The Digital Cathedral, with this McLuhan prophecy:

“The medium, or process, of our time – electric technology is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.
 It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing: you, your family, your education, your neighborhood, your job, your government, your relation to ‘the others.’ And they’re changing dramatically.”

Add to that list of institutions: the church. This Sunday, my congregation is going to take a bold leap into this ever-changing, ever-challenging digital age. We are going to have “Zoom Church.” 

What, you may well ask, is Zoom Church? Zoom is a video conferencing platform that we’ve been using this past year for church meetings. With members who live all over the Bay Area, Zoom has been a wonderful resource – much better than conference calls, almost as good as in-person (except everyone has to bring their own coffee and snacks!). When we were lamenting the miserable traffic jams we have to endure to get to church on Sunday and the difficulties of getting there every week, we wondered, “Why not use Zoom for church?” 

So we decided to try it out during July and August. Our worship planning team has been working on learning the bells and whistles of Zoom, how to add music, videos, and text. Today we did a practice run and tomorrow will be our debut.

We’re going to try three different formats over the summer. Tomorrow’s service will be the liturgical model, based on our usual order of service. The second one will be a discussion format, the third a contemplative one. A survey will go out to participants after each so we can evaluate how it’s working and what people find most meaningful.

Of course, we’ll still have our in-person church services on non-Zoom Sundays. We’re also going to offer a podcast for those who participate in a community service project in September. Instead of being in real-time, like Zoom, it can be accessed at any time.

Will these ideas work? We don’t know. Some may find the idea of a digital church to be way too far out. Others will think we haven’t gone far enough. But our theory is that the church today talks a lot about the need to change, to try new things, to go outside the proverbial box. So that’s what we’re going to do. 

Stay tuned – or better yet, tune in. We’re being fairly quiet about Zoom Church for now; we want to get as many of the bugs worked out as we can. But if you want to join in on July 9, July 23, or August 13, let me know – we’ll send you the link. 

 

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