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 By Rev. Margaret Walker

So how do you start sharing a priest between two parishes in the middle of the pandemic?  Could we envision a way of doing church now and into the future? 

A way of doing church that would take advantage of the technology that is now so prevalent and would also work when we are permitted to gather in our churches, and share time together over a coffee.

One of the challenges of sharing a priest is that the service at each location has to be at different times, times that are about two hours apart to allow enough time for the first service and then driving to the second church.  Another challenge is that the priest rarely gets to spend much time with the church with the first service.  Since prior to sharing St Columba Waterloo and St George’s New Hamburg’s services were at almost the same time, either or both parishes would have had to make major changes to their service times.

The plan was to stream from one church one week and from the other church the following week.  One week the priest would be live and in-person, the other week the priest would be live and on-TV.  The benefits are that everyone can meet in their parish for worship and fellowship every week (once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted), service times only changes slightly, the priest can stay for coffee and fellowship, no inappropriate rushing (no speeding tickets or accidents), and mileage costs are significantly reduced.  And if sickness or weather stop a parishioner from coming to church for the service then they will still be able to watch it on Facebook.  We are ready for the next ice storm.

For the first six months of the pandemic, neither parish was streaming their services over Facebook or YouTube, so most of the technology for streaming needed to be acquired.  We were shopping in August for large screen TVs, computers, cameras, and selecting streaming software.  The set-up in each location uses the same technology, which means that tips can be shared, if needed. The operators can run the set-up in the other location, and there is a chance that between them they can train the priest to use it for funerals.  A joint Facebook page was set up for worship so that parishioners go to the same place to watch the service regardless of where it is being streamed from.

Since September, we have made several upgrades including increasing the number of cameras from one to two, and adding more microphones so that no one shares.  The priest is very appreciative of the new overhead lighting at St George’s, which greatly reduces the shadows on speakers faces.

We are looking forward to the time when we will gather together for worship.  Sharing a priest is not so obvious when everyone is watching from home.  Will it be more or less comfortable to watch from a pew with fellow parishioners compared to watching from the sofa alone?

Rev. Margaret Walker is Priest-in-Charge at St. George's New Hamburg and St. Columba Waterloo.   

(Photo: If you don’t need a pulpit for preaching, it makes a good stand for the TV)