TV ministry - connecting First Church in the time of COVID-19
Outwardly focused, inwardly strong. When I think of the First Church mission in 2020, I first think of our all-star TV ministry team. When our world suddenly turned upside down in March and the Church had to close its doors to regular Sunday worship, this ministry never skipped a beat. They are the outstretched arm that kept so many of us connected to the Body of Christ in an uncertain time.
Led by Doug Crain, the effort was nothing short of monumental to produce a worship service on the fly meant entirely for a remote audience. “Normally, we try to give our viewers the worship experience as if they were there in person,” said Doug. “But that all changed when no one could be there in person.” As the world seemed to change each day, so did the broadcast we saw at home. It started with bringing down a balcony camera to a more intimate location on the third row, front and center. Doug and his team poured through previous broadcasts to integrate choir anthems and congregational hymns. “To me there was something positive about seeing the way it was before the lockdown and being able to imagine what it will be like when we’re able to get back to normal.”
“Even though you and your family might be alone, our hope was that with this style of worship service you felt that you weren’t really alone.”
– Doug Crain
Crowd-sourcing parts of the service also became a life-giving element of the weekly broadcast. Whether it was children wishing their moms a “Happy Mother’s Day” or reading Scripture, the First Church family came together, virtually-speaking, during this isolating period of time. Doug said, “Even though you and your family might be alone, our hope was that with this style of worship service you felt that you weren’t really alone.” It was Doug and his team who compiled and edited it for our shared experience each Sunday.
The shutdown was surreal on many fronts, including within the empty sanctuary. “It was very odd at the beginning. This great, beautiful sanctuary that we all love was sort of … dry,” Doug remarked. “It became a big room with a primary purpose of being a television studio. Ron’s main organ console was rolled out front for all to see and Scripture readings took place in otherwise unused sections of the sanctuary for broadcast purposes.”
Now that modified, in-person services have resumed, the broadcast team continues to bring a blended (combined traditional and contemporary) service to the broader congregation with a more concerted focus on including those of us who remain outside the sanctuary each Sunday.
Broadcasts are more dynamic than ever, uniquely shining Christ’s light to our Body in all corners of our city and truly our world. Jump into the Facebook feed on a Sunday morning and you’ll find loved ones joining from as far away as the East Coast and even Europe, showcasing how First Church is deeply connected to the global Church in a way unlike ever before.
Well-beyond this pandemic, the broadcast team will continue to bring the Gospel message to the elderly, home-bound and hospitalized.
The creativity was collaborative among the skeleton in-person staff, Church communications leaders and the all-volunteer broadcast team, which had shrunk due to the shutdown. For Doug, it was a family affair with both his wife Jane and son Adam helping run the cameras on various Sundays. Michael Vickery, Tiffany Pickerel, Scott Roney and Thomas Burke also were key to making sure Sunday worship services and even the Pastor’s Class on Wednesdays were there for all to see. Even in the face of the occasional tech “gremlin,” this stalwart team adapted to the “new normal” and allowed each of us to stay connected on a number of different platforms. The next time you step inside the Church for worship, be sure to share your gratitude with any member of this intrepid team.
Well-beyond this pandemic, the broadcast team will continue to bring the Gospel message to the elderly, home-bound and hospitalized. It will connect all of us with an ability to remotely worship whenever we cannot be physically present. We praise God for the gift of technology and the gifts bestowed on this particular team, to bring us together even when we are apart, for whatever reason.