When COVID-19 put a temporary halt to public worship, congregations were challenged to put a new emphasis on offering online worship.
At Seaford Lutheran Church in the south of Adelaide, our congregation faced an extra challenge as our shepherd, Pastor Mark Kaesler, received a serious cancer diagnosis. Bouts of ill-health, and the side-effects of chemotherapy, meant Pastor Mark could not always lead our worship in the way he wished.
The answer was for volunteers to step up, led by retired primary school principal Bob Thiele.
Our first online worship, specifically designed for a YouTube audience, was held on 29 March and has continued ever since, even when public worship could be resumed. The congregation decided to continue when we noted that while our average physical attendance is 55, up to four times that number were worshipping online!
But our YouTube worship is not just filming a normal physical church service. Instead, it’s specially designed for those watching on a screen. We’ve found 30 minutes to be the most effective length, with just two songs and the gospel reading alongside the message and other worship elements.
Many different people take part in the presentation of worship – for Bible readings, leading the singing, prayer – and are filmed in their homes, close-up.
That’s where nostril hairs are important. When Bob led a training session on YouTube filming techniques for a group of 20 congregation members most of whom are aged 65-plus, he emphasised checking your appearance to make sure there were no distractions from the worship – like men’s stray nostril hairs!
Bob also showed us the importance of:
- Making it personal – looking at the camera, not the screen
- Checking your sound – using microphones, being aware of noise
- Picture quality – using a camera in the rear of the phone, avoiding camera shake
- Composition – the rule of thirds in framing the image
- Sharing video files – easily and efficiently
Special moments in Seaford online have included the Lord’s Prayer being prayed at hospital bedsides and from up to five locations on-screen. We’ve had reflection messages from beaches, vegetable gardens, shopping centres, a cemetery and a train – and from the homes of people physically unable to attend.
It has been a special blessing for us to be with Pastor Mark online through his cancer treatment, too. Bob puts it this way: ‘We are travelling Mark’s journey with him. People have seen him lose his hair. Seen him when he was so low that [his wife] Beth had to talk for him or do the message. It is an intimate journey. I think that God is really using him at this time. His messages have been very focused and inspired.’
The highest number of views for our online worship is 341.
We’ve had viewers from Scotland, Canada and Papua New Guinea – and even teenagers!!! We’ve also seen God work in drawing to our YouTube worship people who had no longer been attending physical worship on Sundays.
While none of us ‘nose’ what the future holds … and all of us are blessed when we physically come together in worship, especially for the Lord’s Supper, we thank God for what he has shown us through the COVID challenges of 2020.
The Seaford YouTube channel is at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg4myJucYcxYQyqZHYNNbJA/
Jonathan Krause is a member of Seaford Lutheran Church, South Australia.