By Nathan Ham
Online worship services continue to grow in popularity all across the country now that social distancing protocols have limited large group gatherings. Boone United Methodist Church has been working for well over a month to refine their streaming platforms to be able to reach out to everyone in the community.
March 15 was the first Sunday that BUMC decided to begin streaming its services online, according to Ben Fitzgerald, the Crossroads Worship Coordinator at BUMC.
“The first Sunday we had three cell phones pointing at us while we were sitting on the stage. Two of them were for our Facebook page and the other one went to our Instagram page,” he said.
Fast-forward to this week and the streaming quality has greatly improved, thanks to the hard work of the many volunteers involved with the church.
“A while back we had a company come in and set up the sound system we have now and the technology to live stream if we wanted to. We had a camera and a computer that was ready to live stream, what we were missing was a studio that allowed us to do it and a program to allow us to stream across multiple platforms,” said Fitzgerald.
Boone United Methodist Church uses Restream which takes the video feed and distributes it across multiple channels. The feed can be seen on the church’s website, phone app, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live.
Making sure the video feed syncs up properly with the audio is one of the most important aspects of putting out a quality stream. Brandon Greer, the technical director, has been working on that since early on when they had issues with the audio not syncing up with the video.
“The main thing we had to work on is the quality of the sound. You can take what everybody sounds like and put it in a microphone and unless it is mixed properly, the sound quality won’t be there,” said Greer. “Trying to figure out the levels to make sure everybody is even as far as speaking volume goes, reducing white noise and feedback has been a little bit of a challenge.”
Senior Pastor Lory Beth Huffman has been really proud of everybody’s hard work to make the live streaming possible.
“Every week we figure something else out. It has been a process for us but I have been really impressed with this team. Everyone picks up their piece of the pie and it is such a team effort. We have been so adaptive,” said Huffman. “The feedback has been an amazing response that we are all really grateful for. I think we surprised even ourselves.”
Huffman says that being able to do these live streams gives everyone a feeling of being connected even though everyone is worshipping from their homes and not in the church sanctuary.
“We have more than one face on a camera at a time. I think that has been important because it creates a sense of connection and community. Folks have really tuned in and shared with their friends. We have people watching and worshipping with us that have never been part of our community before,” said Huffman.
BUMC has even been able to offer communion services over the stream, something they have done twice already. Huffman said that a few years ago, the idea of doing communion over a live video feed was “deemed not appropriate” but times have certainly changed and their bishop has given them permission to offer communion online.
Verne Collins, BUMC’s Pastor of Discipleship, encourages other churches in the area to consider offering live streams if they are not already.
“If I were to offer advice, I would tell folks not to be scared. All you need is a smartphone and a Facebook account. Folks have been so hungry for an opportunity to worship and to feel some sense of connection that the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Collins. “I think if anybody has been on the fence about it, I think it’s better to offer something than nothing.”
Huffman agrees that with the way things are right now, people are looking for ways to connect with their faith and their community.
“Where church has had to compete with so many other choices that families make, a lot of those other choices aren’t available right now. We have figured out how to continue to consistently be an option and a presence in their lives so a lot of folks have turned to use that might have had other choices before,” she said. “I have been thankful that we have been able to be present for folks and I hope that will continue when life picks back up.”
Kelly Broman-Fulks, the Director of Communications at Boone United Methodist Church, says that this coming Sunday will be the seventh Sunday that the church has had their live stream operating. “We have been averaging around 225 to 230 devices logged in to watch across all of our platforms.”
Broman-Fulks has been able to follow along with social media posts and comments to see how much people are enjoying these online streams.
“What has been so awesome for me in my role on Sundays is seeing how many people are praising and lifting up their praises through the comment section. You really can feel that authentic worship experience happening in people’s homes. I have really enjoyed my behind-the-scenes role as I have been worshipping along,” she said.
While Pastor Huffman would love to see everyone’s smiling faces inside the church, the live stream will have to do for now. She hopes that more and more people will continue to watch the live streams.
“We welcome anybody and everybody to come worship with us on Sunday mornings wherever you are. Invite your friends to join us to worship through the multiple platforms that we offer and we pray that it will be an opportunity for people to not only connect with us but to also worship God,” said Huffman.
Online Sunday Worship
Connect with Boone United Methodist Church at 11 a.m. through the following:
WATA 1450 AM / 96.5 FM
BUMC Phone App