I thought I’d take you all behind the scenes a bit this week to show you some of the work that goes into creating online worship services. Some churches have tech teams who put together and edit pre-recorded services, but Peoples just has me. The fact that I live stream about 3/4 of every Sunday’s service means that I only have to edit about 1/4 of the content.
Video editing is tedious. For example, to put lyrics on screen for a hymn, first I take the video that I filmed of Doris playing the piano and make sure it’s just the song without any false starts or trailing ends of conversation. Then I watch through the video to mark out where each verse begins. I create a graphic with lyrics for each verse, download it, bring it into my video editing software, format it, resize it, and time it to be on screen for the duration of the verse. I repeat this process for each verse, which usually takes a half hour or more for each hymn. For offertories, I’ll show a series of pictures of the church, adjusting the length and movement of each picture to work within the length of the song. For All Saints in November and again for our Longest Night service in December, I put together a video naming the people in our church and community who have died over the past year, layering in the sound of bell chime for each name.
Sometimes I’ll get a little fancier with the hymns, digitally adding in a harmony line on the chorus over the original recording of Doris. It’s more of a creative challenge that helps break up the full day every week that I spend putting together the pre-recorded sections for each Sunday’s service.
As many of you know, I joined the chancel choir of my home church when I was 14, which was how I started to learn passages of scripture and fall in love with them. I love the way that voices can come together to tell a story: whether it’s discordant notes painting a picture of chaos, or a duet from the perspective of two characters, or voices overlapping each other like the sound of an overflowing cup. When we sing in harmony, we vocally represent the different gifts we offer to God by voicing our praise in the same words but different notes. When I was 16, we sang an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing that inspired me to learn the hymn in different parts and keys. In addition to being a lovely expression of hope and promise, it holds a special place among hymns for me for being the first one I could sing both melody and harmony lines to.
We recently celebrated the Baptism of the Lord, which always falls the Sunday after Epiphany, so naturally I picked hymns about water. I learned additional lines of harmony to record all four parts of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (obviously I transposed the bass line up an octave). To do that, I put on headphones so that I can hear the piano but not re-record it as I’m recording the vocal line. Then I go back and record a second line over it, and another, and adjust the volume of each to blend better. By the standards of the multiple concert vocalists and musicians in my family, my audio mixing skills are pretty basic, but I miss singing with other people, and recording harmonies lets me pretend, just for a moment, that I’m not singing alone.
In the Before Times, I would think about the first verse of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing: “streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” In this season, I’m stuck on the second verse: “Here I raise my ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come, and I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.” In Hebrew, “eben-ezer” is literally “this far I have come by God’s help” and was the name of a stone monument set up as a reminder to the people in the book of 1 Samuel.
This far we have come with God’s help and with God’s help, we can keep going. With God’s help, we, too, can safely arrive at home.