Well before the pandemic, St. Paul’s UCC in Robesonia set up YouTube Live Streaming primarily for our homebound members to connect to the worship service. We soon learned that the majority of our homebound members do not have a computer, tablet, smart phone, or other way in which to connect to YouTube or Facebook.
In the summer of 2020 we added Phone Live Streaming. With phone streaming, individuals can call a church’s designated phone stream number and listen to the worship service live using a landline or cell phone, hear a playback of a previous worship service, or listen to other church audio downloads. They can also opt to have the church call them automatically when the worship service begins, where all they need to do is pick up the phone when it rings and listen. That option can be set up by the individual caller from their own touch tone phone, or a church staff person can add phone numbers to the autocall list. We have five individuals set up to automatically be called Sunday mornings as the worship service begins, and a few others call in on their own.
We have expanded to include Facebook Live with YouTube Live Streaming, and our system is set up to start all three (YouTube, Facebook, and Phone Stream) together at the same time automatically, with all three running through the sound board. The Phone Stream automatically saves the last nine worship services on a playback list, deleting the oldest and adding the most recent, for worshipers to be able to listen later. Audio files can also be “premiered” to simulate live; for example: a worship service can be pre-record on Thursday evening, uploaded to the Phone Stream library, and set to automatically begin playing at the usual Sunday morning worship time. Our organist also uploaded a series of musical devotions as an audio file for listening at home over the phone.
Some members who have hearing aids designed to connect to a phone have found the sound quality to be better with the Phone Stream than our attempts with Zoom, and some watch YouTube and listen with Phone Stream, as they prefer the Phone Stream audio. (Although, in our initial attempts we were not running Zoom through our sound board). The primary limitations we have experienced include: there is no fast forward or rewind; after the live broadcast there is a delay until it is added to the library for later listening; if we pre-record video and audio for a premier we need to convert to .mp3 audio before adding it to the library; we do not have a microphone that picks up the sound of our bell choir well; and because it is audio, there are no visual cues, so worship leaders need to be mindful to give verbal context when doing something in worship that is visual and silent.
After nine months of use, St. Paul’s UCC plans to continue to offer this feature, even after the pandemic ends, to connect our homebound members without internet access to worship.
For more information, use the following link for the website of the Phone Live Streaming service used by St. Paul’s UCC in Robesonia: https://pls.onl/r/261. You can call our streaming phone number 888-649-5770 to hear a sample of phone streaming. (This article is not without promotional bias; there is a current promotion, where St. Paul’s UCC receives credit to their subscription account for each church that signs up through the referral link).
For other information, I can be reached at 610-621-5770 or PastorMotz@sprucc.org.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Motz,
Pastor of St. Paul’s UCC in Robesonia