A Rationale for Remote Church

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

Home Communion 

When we are engaged in remote church we are entering peoples homes (and they ours), worshipers 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.
  • Alb and stole not full vestments.
  • A simple service, readings and ceremonial.
  • Mostly said not sung.
  • An awareness of Spiritual Communion. A video explaining this is here.
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 (for us it is 40 minutes online), 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

Go Live

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. Whilst elements of the service may need to be pre-recorded - a hymn or music, readings, prayers or sermon (and it is not impossible to offer these live), the meat of the service, especially the offering of bread and wine is made together as the worship of the whole community. We are limited by streaming platforms delay policies, and pre-recorded services and reflections are appropriate to supplement core worship.

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.
  • Crossing
  • 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.

Prayer ministry can be offered using an shared prayer for renewal.
A short video is available for use here.

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

If you can the words of the service need to be clearly visible on the live stream without having to open another window, or find another device. 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. Chroma key can be used to make elements of a PowerPoint transparent, allowing the stream to use full screen videos and images.
Chroma Keyed Service Preparation
Care should be taken with music as many webcams and 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.

Do What You Can

At present many of us have other commitments, such as full time childcare (like me!). 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.