A Rationale for Remote & Blended Church

There are a variety of different approaches to providing church worship remotely during the present pandemic. This is one approach.

The Model of Home Communion

When we are engaged in remote church we are entering peoples homes (and they ours), worshippers sat in their living rooms. We already have a model for worship when people are unable to be in the church building - and that is the Home Communion. Typical markers of this form would be.
  • Seated at a table not standing at an altar.
  • A simple service, readings and ceremonial.
  • Mostly said not sung.
  • An awareness of Spiritual Communion (Video).
There is no reason that sign and symbol typical to worship in a church building cannot be used in this context, but should be done in a way that would work if you were physically seated with people in their homes. The length of of the service may well be half what you normally offer but that would not be unusual for a home communion.

The camera itself should be set at a position that echoes the view others would have if seated with the person leading the service. It is not unreasonable to remove (or cover) distractions from worship, and curate the space - especially if (like me) you are streaming from a busy study.

A Simple 50/50 Split


If we are blending worshippers from home with those in a church building (we are about 25% in person to 75% online) many of the lessons from the Home Communion model can still be applied. 

  • The camera positioned is as if the participant was there, seated or standing in the front of church. 
  • Ceremony clear and simplified, with opportunities sign-posted to participate physically at home.

A balance needs to be found between the Home Communion model and what we usually do in a church building. We have for example introduced more sung parts of the liturgy in a way they can be engaged with at home, where at present people can sing.

Go Live but Include

When people are physically distanced the points of connection are reduced. Ensuring that the service is happening at the same time as people join together is one way to achieve that. It is important especially that the offering of bread and wine is made together as the worship of the whole community - although we are limited by streaming platforms delay policies.

However to include the whole congregation elements of the service may need to be pre-recorded. We have parts of the liturgy led by children and young people (Video), readings, prayers and sermons contributed by those who cannot yet be with us in person.

Home Action & Sacramentals

Involve actions people can do at home if they wish during the service. These can be noted in the service presentation and suitable for adults and children. Examples include.
  • Lighting a candle at the beginning and extinguishing at the end of the service.
  • Making the sign of the cross.
  • Bubbles during the prayers (mostly for children!)
  • Ringing a bell at the consecration.
  • Oil for healing and prayer.
Many of these actions you may already do in church. We have produced children's boxes that can be used both at home and by families in church. (Video)

Prayer ministry can be offered using and shared prayer for renewal. (Video)

The question of if participants may have bread and wine of their own to be consecrated needs to be considered as part of the teaching of the whole church. Live online worship is genuine gatheredness and community, and streamed presence is real presence. I personally cannot see why bread and wine cannot be consecrated 'remotely'. But I find such a significant theological shift difficult to commend as an individual, especially when I profoundly embrace Spiritual Communion from pastoral experience.

Single Window

The words of the service need to be clearly visible on the live stream without having to open another window, or find another device. Remote church is not a television programme, it is more like using a website - and that should guide our layout and design, even if video is not fully interactive.

This can be done in a number of ways once the service has been prepared in PowerPoint or another presentation application. The simple option is to place a physical screen in focus with the person leading, or alternatively OBS or other application (Logitech offer one with all their Webcams) can be used to do this in software. 

However we use Chroma key and OBS to make elements of a PowerPoint transparent, allowing the stream to use full screen videos and images. The mixed image is then also shown on the screens in church, which for us is helpful as social distancing has reduced the amount of seating with clear sight lines of the table. 

It should be noted that this involved investment in more powerful computer equipment for church, but we are very happy with a single standard 1080p Logitech C920 webcam for video. The priority is engagement not video quality - which is likely to be downgraded as streamed in any case.

Chroma Key PowerPoint

Care should be taken with music as many webcams and streaming microphones are set up to filter background noise and focus on voice resulting in muddy audio. 

Using PowerPoint and OBS makes the inclusion of audio and video simple as it will mix audio directly from your PC into the Stream. However if you are Streaming from a building it is often better to link your sound desk to your computer in both directions - if you have that equipment. 

Do What You Can

At present many of us have other commitments. We may also not have the computer hardware or experience to do what others are doing (although now is not an unreasonable time to upgrade equipment). It is better to do something simple well, live and together with your church community than worry too much about what other people are doing.