A few things learned in lockdown

There’s a few things we’ve learned about streamed services over the last few weeks that will be fun to share with you all as my blog this week.

RBC is brimming with talent and creativity

I have so loved involving folks who may not normally get involved with our Sunday services. It’s been wonderful to showcase our wonderful diverse community and to let ideas run and develop. We’ve had some amazing creative moments in our services and there’s more still to come.

Nearly live is better than live

The service is live streamed, but all the content is pre-recorded. I usually record my introductions and welcomes on Sunday morning at about 7:30 AM to make it as current as possible. But apart from week 1 nothing else has gone out live.  This allows us to cater for potential glitches and problems that inevitably arise with technology.

Location location location

I record my sermons on site at Church using a green screen with Theo as my cameraman. It’s quiet, empty and with great acoustics. Outside recordings always look great but pick up a lot of ambient noise and traffic so unless you have a really professional set up it’s better to record inside.

Licences and copyright

Did you know most weeks we pick up a warning about a potential breach of copyright or licence for the music we use? This has been a very complicated area depending on whether we use pre-recorded music or live performance and so it limits our song choices.

The worship leaders want to lead not perform

Which is why we don’t show the musicians playing but just have their music, voices, and the words on the screen.  Recording a small worship set can take a long time sometimes, up to eight hours to get everything right. That’s dedication and commitment!

10 minutes is a long time

We’ve tried to keep all the talks, teaching and sermons to as close to ten minutes as possible. Research suggests that people have a much shorter attention span on screen (think how short and concise news articles are) and are likely to be distracted if someone is on screen for longer than ten minutes. This has been a great discipline – if you can’t say it in ten minutes are you saying too much?

Facebook has been the best option for us so far

This has been such a tricky area to get right but Facebook live has been the most convenient and easy platform to broadcast from, especially as it allows the comments and interactions we enjoy on a Sunday morning. You don’t have to be registered with Facebook to join the service – but can connect through the church website.

After service chat rooms are both fun and frustrating

The best way to join the zoom after service chat rooms is to have your camera on and name clearly displayed. Samsung G5 and iPhone 6s won’t be allowed in as we don’t know who you are. This is to keep the rooms safe from zoom bombing! If you don’t know that is… trust me it’s bad!

Visitors and guests to our services are all followed up

As best we can and welcomed to RBC community

Bloopers and outtakes

I’m told that Matt and Rachel are keeping a store of mistakes and outtakes ready to play at some later date. I feel very nervous but am wondering whether this could be a good fund raiser for RBC…

The new normal

The reality is that online streamed services are going to be how we must do things for much longer than we originally anticipated. It’s going to months before we can go back to the Sunday services we used to have. So the team (and it’s a big team that pull the service together) are committed to learning, improving, honing, producing and delivering the best service we can to allow us to continue to worship, encourage and grow together as a church community. This is a new way of living that we are all adapting to. I know that its not for everyone.

RBC is very adaptable

I am so amazed and grateful at how people have adjusted to zoom, Facebook, and other online media as we grow together as a community. What a church we are. Thank you for being so gracious and adaptable.

See you Sunday online at 10

50

It was my birthday on Tuesday, a fairly significant birthday as I’ve reached the half century milestone of 50 years old and being someone who likes a good party, I had big plans for this weekend.  A year ago, we started planning ’50 fest’ in the McBain family camp. The idea was a sort of middle aged, middle class mini Glastonbury type event with live music, comedy, poetry, great food and best of all friends from all over the world coming to join us over the weekend. Mairi also has a big birthday this year so we were going to combine both celebrations – I’m not allowed to say her age, but we were born in the same year!

With the onset of lock down restrictions we had to make some different plans – 50 fest still happened – it was just the 5 local McB’s, a few zoom calls and a really fun day of different treats, surprise activities- oh and incredible food.

I think it was actually one of my best birthdays ever, rather than lament what we didn’t have or couldn’t do, we simply stayed in the moment and were greatly enriched by being in the here and now.

This wasn’t my only celebration this week. Yesterday I completed my Pastoral Supervision course and am pleased to announce that I have passed and am able to register and begin building up my pastoral supervision hours.  It’s been a great class to learn with and we had planned an end of term celebration – and you know I love a party!

In its place we had two long days of zoom facilitated teaching, the usual empowering and uplifting environment of being in a class with likeminded students replaced by the out of sync timings and delayed voices of zoom calls… what a shame.

Until we came to our final session. All the students and the tutors contributed reflections, readings, stories, and songs as our final goodbye- it was emotional. poignant, wonderful, and appropriate.

In that moment there was great beauty.

At our CLT prayer meeting last night, rather than fill the hour with agenda driven prayer topics we allowed space, we waited, we stopped, we had silence.  A strong sense came from the whole team of God communicating to us something about living in the moment – enjoying the now and being attentive to what is happening now rather than lamenting the past and planning for the future.

I shared a story which I have been using and pondering a lot since I heard it at the start of this week.

A monk was being chased through a forest by a pack of wolves. 

He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. 

As he hung there, he looked down and realised it was only half the pack of wolves chasing him, the other half were below him jumping up and nipping at the end of the vine.  Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

There’s beauty and fruit to be enjoyed in the moment – no matter what the future holds!

Connection

When lock down started on the 23rd March I had these grand ideas that I was going to record a video blog – a vlog every week and post it up on all our social media platforms, to keep in contact with everyone. I’m so glad I didn’t as  its seems every church minister and their dog also had the same idea, and now I can’t log onto Facebook or YouTube without being assailed by another pastor posting another video of their last service, or the thoughts about their next service, or general musings about the day. I daren’t log on today for fear of seeing yet another warm smiling vicar (usually someone I was at college with) sat in front of their impressive home library of theological books sharing another rich vignette of spiritual wisdom while they look slightly off camera!…. I know, I know ‘pot, kettle, black’ etc.

Stop! I’m being overloaded here – I’m drowning in a sea of video updates and well-meaning, warm smiling messages.

Its not just ministers – instead of a simple email, managers, lecturers, financial advisors –  sending videos of themselves, saying aloud what they would have written; and instead of a phone call, it’s all zoom conferences and skype calls – and don’t get me started on Microsoft teams.  The other night, the internet in the manse crashed because all of us were on zoom calls.  I had to revert to using my mobile – no image, no video, no delay – just conversation – it was bliss and my eyes didn’t hurt afterwards.

I have a suspicion at what might be going on here: there is a heartfelt desire to connect with the people we love whom we are missing. Us ministers are strange breeds, generally we like folk (not only the music – that’s just me) and when we are disconnected from people, we lose something of ourselves.  

But there’s also a sense of justifying our existence, I’ve been a Baptist minister for over 20 years and yet I still find myself explaining to people who’ve known me a long, long time that this is not a Sunday job, but a full life vocation.

Without Sunday morning services running as normal and the added spectre of furlough and reduced giving lurking, it’s a way of saying, ‘I’m still here and this is what I’m doing’, and for some it’s their way of saying, ‘Help’.

Perhaps I’m being unkind, but I suspect there’s some truth in this and I also hope you can see I’m also poking fun at myself. 

I think we are learning something about the importance of connection, and how important it is to us. Connection goes deeper than contact: connection is at the heart of the biblical narrative of God and his creation. The ultimate sign of God’s connection was through Jesus, a living, breathing, laughing, crying person, but also God – that still does my head in, connecting with us ‘incarnationally’ – in flesh. A part of being made in God’s image is our need for connection. (If you’re anything like me as soon as you hear the word ‘connection’ you think of Justine Frischman & Elastica, what a tune).

This is my personal challenge this next week: to connect with more people through phone calls, personal cards and hopefully a sensible social-distanced chat on the street. Perhaps this could be your challenge too.

Don’t schedule a meeting, make a phone call.

Unplug your headphones and pick up the phone.

Stop typing and get writing with a pen.

Connect not contact!

See you ‘online’ on Sunday at 10:00