Mitch and I laugh when we consider the urgent haphazardness with which we dove into the deep end of digital communications almost one year ago. Yes, online worship was something we had seen in Santa Fe’s future and had discussed noncommittally, but it was a topic that remained completely unattended while all else demanded our immediate attention. That is, until COVID-19 demanded our immediate attention.
Broadcasting live from our Facebook page was the option we chose for providing our congregants with replacement worship services. We already had a Facebook page that most of our members used for keeping up with the goings-on at church. It seemed a natural choice. We asked for advice from professionals who helped us upgrade our equipment and we recruited young people from our congregation to help us. God bless the young. Our early attempts were riddled with rookie mistakes like having to use someone’s phone last-minute because the cameras wouldn’t cooperate…which resulted for a few minutes of sideways video. Whoops.
But, we persisted. We were willing to look like fools if we had to in order to gather our flock. We figured the reward would be worth the risk, and we have a long-standing policy of taking what we do very seriously without taking ourselves very seriously. We decided early-on that this policy would apply also to the sharing of The Lord’s Supper. Sacraments are a serious enough business to us that we felt compelled to find a way to invite people to Christ’s table. We encouraged our folks to find elements in their pantries and fridges that they could sanctify to the work of the Spirit in these desperate times. We set “example” tables and posted photos to get people’s creative juices flowing and asked people to share their own photos. The response was overwhelming! It confirmed our conviction that people need the Sacraments now more than ever.
Just this week, on Nathan Creamer’s third day on the job as Communications Director, the blizzard dictated we try something new again. We used Zoom to lead worship, each of us from our homes. We pre-recorded music which was played using the “screen share” function. It went so well Sunday morning that we did it again Wednesday night. We told our folks prior to Ash Wednesday to gather up something they could use as ashes (ashes from the fireplace, a candle wick, potted plant soil, or just plain old dust from a baseboard) and we self-imposed what dust and dirt we brought. The music team felt ambitious enough this time to try pre-recorded harmonies, each of us singing with a lead track from our homes which our young Music Intern, Bryson Foster, magically synced in order to make us sound like a real ensemble. Genius!
We are still on a steep learning curve, but the reward of our willingness to dive into the deep end of digital worship has been hearing from friends old and new, near and far, that they are glad to attend worship in this way. Knowing that our efforts at going digital are meaningful for our folks is reason enough for us to keep learning, to keep venturing into uncomfortable territory, and yes, to keep making fools of ourselves if that’s what it takes. Even when we are able to safely gather in person, we are committed to providing digital worship to anyone and everyone who wants to attend from where they are. Live streaming is a permanent part of our ministry now – call us fools for the sake of the virtual gospel. – Rev. Laurel