Installing a live-streaming system

Author: The Revd Canon Edward Carter

Published on: 16 December 2021

Like every church, March 2020 saw St Peter Mancroft closed for worship at short notice.

On the first Sunday when services could not take place Curate Graham Kirk- Spriggs was resourceful in putting on an act of worship from his home, live-streamed on Facebook. As the weeks went by other members of the Ministry Team took their turns. Although this was well received, technical hitches did occur frequently and there was a sense in which the shared nature of worship was not fully represented.

As a return to the church building began to look likely, Assistant Priest Lorna Allies led a small Project Team to explore ways in which a live-streaming system could be installed. Various solutions are available, and two were considered in some detail, but a site visit from a company called AED on 29 June (St Peter’s Day) followed by a detailed technical specification and quotation meant that a proposal could be put before the PCC in mid-July. Alongside this Archdeacon Karen Hutchinson was consulted, and she proved to be very sympathetic and helpful.

With everyone keen to press ahead, and the required permission from the Archdeacon given, AED was commissioned to install the system in the first week of August. This process went remarkably smoothly, although two follow-up visits from AED have helped iron out some teething difficulties and made some other presentational adjustments possible. There was also a need to make sure the wi-fi connectivity was good enough for the demands of streaming. The last couple of weeks in August were used to conduct some trials, and more lessons were learned.

Through the summer the Sunday morning service was still being livestreamed from ministers’ homes, but on 6 September for the first time the Sunday Service was also broadcast from the church itself.

There had been worries that the congregation actually present might feel themselves to be on a film-set, but this didn’t prove to be the case. The system means we can worship in just the way we always have without being at all self-conscious, but those at home can also ‘attend’ remotely and feel part of what is happening. It was especially good to be able to live-stream carol services at Christmas which would normally see us packed out, but which this year have been very restricted. The system installed is designed to be operated by one person using a simple fob, with just a few fixed cameras but a large variety of camera angles. Michael Winter, who is on a Ministry Experience year at the church, pioneered the techniques for successful operation of the new equipment, but there are now several people who’ve been trained to use it – many of them not natural ‘techie’ types at all. One of the most satisfying features is the ease of operation, and a growing number of recordings of services and other occasions on the Mancroft YouTube channel are witness to the success.

For us as a busy church this has been a fantastic development; we’ve been able to offer live-streaming for funerals, school carol services, music recitals, heritage talks, as well as our regular pattern of services. Every church will have different needs, but the reaction from everyone here has been entirely positive and I’m delighted we took the plunge.

With a sound system upgrade included, the total cost was over £12,000, but over half was covered by generous grants from Allchurches Trust and the diocesan Sharing Good News fund.

The author...

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The Revd Canon Edward Carter

Licensed clergy - Incumbent: Vicar, St Peter Mancroft (Norwich) (Benefice)

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