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Let’s talk technology!

New Castle Presbytery creates online forum for exchange of tech knowledge across the PC(USA)

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Tracy Keenan is missional presbyter of New Castle Presbytery. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — New Castle Presbytery has created NCPtechtalk, a new Google Group to collaborate on issues of a technical nature during this time of virtual church and beyond. The presbytery consists of 49 Presbyterian communities in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, some fairly new and others well into their fourth century.

The NCPtechtalk Google Group, introduced by the presbytery’s Ignite Team during its January meeting, aims to assist congregations in moving more fully into hybrid worship and ministry experiences — not only within the presbytery, but across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“So many of our churches are out there on their own, struggling to learn how to gather and worship meaningfully online. Most don’t have tech staff or large budgets. It’s pastors with iPhones, and they are worn out,” said the Rev. Dr. Tracy Keenan, missional presbyter of New Castle Presbytery, a Matthew 25 presbytery in the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, a Matthew 25 synod.

“This is our effort to connect churches with other churches — to ask what’s working? What’s not?” Keenan said. “How can we help one another solve issues and make gatherings accessible, and to learn how we can deploy our resources most effectively?”

The Ignite Team of New Castle Presbytery believes that the Holy Spirit is already at work in communities and that as each community partners with others beyond church walls to share in the work Jesus has called us to — addressing issues of hunger, homelessness, injustice, racism and more — we will learn and be changed, because when we encounter the living God, we cannot remain the same.

Keenan added, “Even when this COVID virus is contained and we are able to gather fully and safely in person, online accessibility will continue to be a way of connecting church to the world. Some will still need to continue to practice safe distancing, some want to give church a test run, and some can worship and serve if they don’t have to travel a distance. I hope quality hybrid church continues to be a goal of our forward-thinking faith communities.”

the Rev. Dr. Tom Davis (Contributed photo)

“NCPtechtalk has expanded to include PC(USA) congregations and worshiping communities elsewhere who, on account of the pandemic, are striving to become more adept with online communications,” said the Rev. Dr. Tom Davis, a commissioned interfaith peacemaker and founder of the nonprofit Interfaith Veterans’ Workgroup in New Castle Presbytery. “We also suppose that there are savvy folk elsewhere who can share useful tools and techniques with us.”

Instead of “building the plane while flying it,” NCPtechtalk members are proactively addressing a host of topics, including:

  • Livestreaming
  • Upgrading the technical quality of virtual worship
  • Elements of an effective social media strategy
  • Using photography and videography as tools for social change
  • Facebook vs. YouTube vs. Vimeo
  • Software and hardware needs
  • Online video workshop trainings
  • Digital workshop resources for Lent

“I have just joined the group and am starting to see what information it offers,” said David Teager, a ruling elder at First & Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. “Our church, as with so many others, is struggling to manage the potential of social media, especially during this pandemic. We are in an interim pastoral situation, and I am taking a more active role in promoting what our church offers.”

the Rev. Dr. Richard H. “Duke” Dixon (Screenshot)

The Rev. Dr. Richard H. “Duke” Dixon, interim pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Dover, in Dover, Delaware, recently shared how services have been recorded and his plans for the future.

“We are currently doing virtual services, recording on Saturday and posting on Sunday. We use phones to record the video and separate phones to record the audio. We have three people who share the work, with one person per week doing the editing,” Dixon said. “We each use different software to edit the videos.”

When the congregation was meeting in person, Dixon said, two phones were used to record the video, one in the balcony and one in front of the pulpit; then two phones were used for audio, one at the pulpit and one at the lectern.

First & Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, performs “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” on Christmas Eve 2020. (Screenshot)

“We want to move to livestreaming when we are able to worship in person,” Dixon said. “It would be helpful for us to have a consultant to talk us through what would work best in our particular situation and let us know what equipment we should use.”

New members of NCPtechtalk, the Rev. Deb Trevino and her husband, David “Dave” Trevino, have a different way of looking at and using technology since they are both blind. Dave is an audio technician, musician and mystery writer. Deb is a parish associate at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, and a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). She’s a 2013 graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and serves on the presbytery’s pulpit supply team.

“People are more concerned about ‘seeing’ than they are about quality audio,” Dave said. “A lot of services sound like someone is standing at the back of the sanctuary pointing a microphone at the pulpit.” He looks forward to sharing with the NCPtechtalk group about microphone placement and audio production techniques. Dave plays guitar, bass guitar, trumpet and flugelhorn. Before COVID, when a congregation was missing its pianist, Dave was able to overdub tracks and play the pipe organ for service.

The Rev. Deb Trevino, parish associate at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, with her husband, Dave, on guitar, are new members of NCPtechtalk. The Trevinos are both blind but see clearly that those with disabilities can be an integral part of the family of faith, particularly with assistance from technology. (Photo courtesy of Carol and Gene Stilz)

Deb has been a member of the leadership of the PC(USA)’s Presbyterians for Disability Concerns Committee for several years. The committee has recently reviewed the results of a survey of pastors to gauge needs and experiences through COVID. The survey results will be shared through informational packets distributed across the denomination soon.

“COVID is doing something interesting by getting things shared in a more accessible way,” Deb said. “It has leveled the playing field.”

If you have questions about NCPtechtalk, email the Rev. Tom Davis. If you’d like to join the group, sign up here.

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