Austin Lockdown – Churches

You go to war with the army you have.

Donald Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld took a lot of flack when he said this during the Iraqi invasion. It didn’t comfort the families whose members were dying due to shrapnel from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that penetrated the vehicles that weren’t armored against that kind of attacks. This is a corollary to the observation that armed forces are always fighting the previous war. I’m seeing this in the various churches response to lockdown in Austin.

Last week, the two medium size churches I’m involved with decided days ahead of time to cancel in-person worship and go on-line. This was before the gather size limits were imposed. A smaller church decided to continue holding in-person services. The former two worship services probably would have been illegal by the time they would have met last Sunday. The latter was still legal at the time they met. Two days later, all three would have been illegal.

The first church was already archiving the sermon audio. This was largely controlled from a computer in the loft. Last Sunday, they had video on YouTube that was recorded and shot from the loft with the computer and operator on the edge of the frame. The readings were audio only by someone off-camera. The piano on the sanctuary floor was recorded from the loft. As worship, it fell flat.

The other medium size church never made it on-line as far as I can tell. The promise was “preach on-line on Facebook”. Nothing on their Facebook page.

The little church had worship as usual. No recording. They started worship with two musicians, two clergy, and three people in the congregation growing to seven people by the sermon. Small turnout, but not wildly so.

This week the first church moved the camera onto the sanctuary floor, facing the ministers across the altar. A stain glass window was visible behind the ministers. The Lenten cross and crystal bowl/bell on the altar were visible. The latter was rung in the usual places. The music and the readings were prerecorded and inserted into the live streaming in the usual places. The congregational hymns had the music playing and the lyrics displayed. There was a chat stream down the right side so you had a sense of who was watching. The prayers of the people were texted to the minister. Largely what they already had in place with improvements on what didn’t work the previous week.

The second church still isn’t on-line, though their Website says they are broadcasting worship every Sunday. The link isn’t live.

The third church cancelled in-person worship after the 10 person gathering limit was imposed. The pastor wavered but did cancel when the Bishop insisted. They were already holding Wednesday evening Bible Study as a conference call. Bible Study was in-person five years ago and had 3-5 people. After the Charleston Emmanuel AMEC shootings, they shifted to a conference call and grew to 10-15 people. This Sunday they will hold Bible Study on Sunday evening instead of morning worship.

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