Just as plans for this issue of MEN (Maintenance and Equipment News for Churches and Schools) were under way, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson announced the UK Government’s so-called Roadmap for, hopefully, ending the England Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Different arrangements appeared on the table for other parts of the United Kingdom but at that time we were considering the England lockdown which we trusted was about to pass into history.
Streaming services online, either live or recorded or both, became a new avenue for many places of worship, whereas educational establishments adopted streaming for lessons.
Now that an end to lockdown could well be in sight, many venues have recently been giving consideration to continuing their online activities, perhaps indefinitely. It is possible that others may be debating entering the online arena. In this article, Eric Thorn shares the notes he has made on this now important topic, which he hopes will be of interest to all.
Over the course of the previous year, whilst lockdown was the order of the day, churches and other places of worship resorted to new avenues of keeping their services and other activities alive using electronic digital technologies linked to the Internet. They learned to stream live on-line services and upload recordings of the same on to platforms such as the popular YouTube and Facebook facilities.
Schools, colleges and other representatives of the academic world joined the ever expanding online movement to stream lessons, lectures and more.
Somehow or other a previously little-known digital application called Zoom® became the program of choice for many organisations including churches. Whilst places of worship were busy streaming their services, Bible studies, prayer groups and more, businesses and charities took to the Internet to hold virtual meetings and training sessions. And whilst Zoom was fast becoming a respected household name and international sensation, Microsoft Teams®, which is a rival app to Zoom, was often the preferred system for some users including many in the educational fraternity.
To use Microsoft Teams requires a paid subscription to Microsoft 365®. For some users, especially large organisations and business users, Microsoft have provided links to other apps, notably including Zoom, that can be integrated. Additional subscription fees may be required to integrate apps, but this is clearly indicated on the relevant websites so that users do not need to proceed if they do not wish to pay extra.
Google Meet is another online application that is growing in popularity, and a host of others have come to my attention, but none that I have any experience of. Those interested in checking out what conferencing and meeting apps are currently available would do well to search for details using a suitable description such as Online Meeting apps.
For what it is worth, my personal choice is Zoom. A bird’s eye view of Zoom will be found in the autumn 2020 issue of MEN, using this link: https://content.yudu.com/web/fiqy/0A1707j/mendautumn20/html/index.html?page=28&origin=reader.
Some meeting and conferencing programs may be downloaded and used free of charge. Zoom has both a complimentary and a chargeable version. For most churches, other places of worship and educational users, the no charge edition is satisfactory.
Keeping up with the worshipping Joneses
Over the years of developing television for all tastes, many situation comedies have, and still do sometimes, feature tales of unexpected moves by a neighbouring Jones family. But our hero characters inevitably end up in hot water as their punishment for attempting to covet their neighbours’ up-market activities.
Within the church arena, there could now be a temptation to broadcast services live online and publish recordings of them on various platforms. The suspected desire, of course, is that of attempting to keep up with the worshipping Joneses. Although the chapel down the road is now, seemingly, constantly broadcasting its services, Bible studies, discussion groups and more, and that the diocesan Cathedral is doing likewise, there is no reason to imitate them.
So, please, do not fall into the trap of streaming everything possible just because it may appear to be the contemporary practice. Rather, put worship online as a positive contribution to the ministry that God has ordained. As St Mark chapter 16 verse 15 records, Jesus said, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”.
Back in 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Who would have thought, just over three decades ago, that Sir Tim’s digital technology would one day make it possible for the gospel to be preached throughout the world?
So, in considering the evangelical aspects of Christian worship streaming, give thought to the many people who locally would like to attend a church in person but are prevented due to illness or some other reason. And, internationally, who might be participating online even if only out of curiosity.
How to go live
Top of the list of questions relating to how to go live is exactly that: How is the actual live streaming of services and other programmes accomplished?
Good advice for the novice live streamer is available from Google. Originally aimed at those wishing to live stream any event (subject to legal restraints) on You Tube, a Google company, the information is suitably universal. Go to this web address and see for yourself: Get started live streaming – Computer – YouTube Help (google.com).
Many places of worship, and other organisations including MHA Care Homes (www.mha.org.uk) put recorded content on to You Tube. Even if a venue does not use You Tube for live streaming, adding recorded services or other programmes to You Tube provides a potentially worldwide audience.
Now that Zoom has become a household name internationally, the second most popular query relates to this amazing platform. I use the word amazing to illustrate the fact that Zoom seems to cover so many aspects of online meetings, conferences, and more.
Near the beginning of this article, I provided a link to a bird’s eye view of Zoom that was published in a previous edition of MEN. Those who would like to investigate further would do well to visit Zoom video tutorials – Zoom Help Center. Visitors to that page will be welcomed by a superb choice of short training videos, together with links to all manner of other advice on how to use Zoom and use it to the best advantage.
My preferred choice is a link for registering for a live training session. Trainees are given a fictitious scenario, and a trainer guides them through this in a very diplomatic manner. Although intended for beginners, there is no reason why others should not avail themselves of this expertise opportunity!
On the Zoom video tutorials home page, on the left hand side is a comprehensive list of topics associated with Zoom for those who would like advice on other aspects of using the Zoom platform. Excellent!
For those new to streaming and/or have a minimum budget, there is an excellent free of charge software package. A well thought out piece of kit that even I can comprehend!
Known as OBS Studio, this open broadcasting software can be downloaded from https://obsproject.com. It is considered to be a universal programme, being compatible with Microsoft Windows®, Mac and Linux.
It is well worth visiting the OBS home page and having a trawl through the various tabs. I found both the Help and Resources tabs, and their sub tabs, provided considerable easy to understand guides and video training about how to do just about anything I am ever likely to need.
Furthermore, there are many videos on YouTube that plough through the basics of OBS Studio. Go to You Tube and simply enter OBS in the search box. It is quite surprising just how many videos on this topic there are. Personally, I have generally preferred the information gleaned from the OBS website, but here are links to just two You Tube videos that I have found of value: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBNSNM_pj2E; www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTk99mHDX_I.
Amazingly, one or two people still remember days, now long since past, when I wrote various books about Copyright legislation and travelled the UK lecturing on the subject, including at CRE (Christian Resources Exhibition) events.
Anyone who still has copies of any of those books (some still available for borrowing from public libraries) will appreciate that all were written well before the advent of computers and Internet in places of worship.
Any new edition today would essentially have to include a section pertaining to copyright for live streaming of church services. This would direct readers to the CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) and their relevant web page, which is Streaming Your Services – CCLI. As most churches already have a CCLI licence, it is not difficult to add streaming to the activities they are already licensed for.
Those who do not already hold a current CCLI license are strongly encouraged to consider taking one out. See the CCLI home page and follow relevant tabs for full details: CCLI — Christian Copyright Licensing International.
Probably no one would dispute that the Covid-19 Lockdown provided an unprecedented vehicle for a multitude of organisations and businesses to seek out new and innovative ways and means to keep flying the flag for their respective activities.
Not least among these parties, the Christian Resources Exhibitions (www.creonline.co.uk) planners considered what they could do whilst unable to stage their usual public exhibition events. Their think tank resulted in the publication of a magazine entitled CRE News containing lots of information of general interest for those persons who would otherwise be visiting a CRE exhibition in person. The Spring 2021 edition focuses on streaming services and other events on a modest budget and includes essential information about the importance of cyber security (CRE News for Spring 2021 – Christian Resources Exhibition (creonline.co.uk).
Christian Resources Exhibitions have also created their own virtual television channel. Visitors to their exhibitions have become familiar with the associated lecture and seminar programmes. So, with no exhibitions due to lockdown, they have created their own channel on You Tube to put online many seminars and other programmes.
For full details, head over to www.CRETV.uk.
When I checked, there were already some thirty plus videos to choose from, together with a promise that additional recordings will be added from time to time. The one I selected to watch prior to writing this missive was entitled Learning Contentment with Michael Penny of the Open Bible Trust. The blurb described this presentation as “Can we be content when times are uncertain? Using the apostle Paul as an example, Michael demonstrates the steps to finding a peace about our situation, even during a pandemic”. A most timely lecture that reinforces the fact that the Holy Bible is as relevant today as it has always been.
Lots of useful information is available from various sources. From the church and other places of worship point of view, here are some that are worth peeking at:
The Church of England has a Digital Champion who has provided a guide for live streaming newbies. This is available online at A beginner’s guide to going live with your service or event for free | The Church of England.
Their counterparts, The Church of Scotland, have also provided guidance for those places of worship wishing to either start or improve live streaming their devotional events. Check this out at ‘Live Streaming’ and online publication of worship and other events | The Church of Scotland.
Connecting communities through the medium of contemporary technology, the Roman Catholic Church boasts a refreshing approach to online broadcasting.
To discover all about it, visit ChurchServices.tv live mass and services from Churches in the UK and Ireland.
The Gospel Coalition, based in Austin, Texas, USA, has published online a simple guide to live streaming of church services. Although written for the churches in America, it contains lots of helpful information that United Kingdom churches may well find useful. Read the article at How to Livestream Your Church Service: A Practical Guide (thegospelcoalition.org).
Eric A. Thorn