How to build Worship on the Web

We have had to change the way in which we enable our congregation to take part in worship now that we cannort gather together in church. Here the Vicar, Maureen Hobbs, describes the process that brings the weekly Sunday service together. Our Director of Music explains the workings of the virual choir which is part of that service.

Planning and recording the service

Maureen Hobbs

It has been suggested that some of you may be interested in the process that brings you your weekly Internet service on a Sunday?

Greg Lewin has written separately about how he puts together the virtual choir.

My work begins with the readings set for the day and I would usually choose the readings set for the Eucharist that particular Sunday, even though we are not often celebrating the Eucharist at present. Others may approach it slightly differently – but I will let them add their comments should they wish!

The readings often present me with the overall theme for the day. Since we are in the Easter season at present, this is likely to be some aspect of the Resurrection experiences. One of the benefits of being a bibliophile and of having been vicaring for around 20 years plus, is that I have a lot of resources on my bookshelves. So I will often go to one or more of my favourite sources to find prayers and responses that I think will build into a satisfying act of worship.

Anglican services conform to a basic structure – even when there is a great deal of variety within them. So we begin with a time of gathering together in prayer, then we want to praise, to ask God’s forgiveness for our mistakes, to listen to and break open God’s Word in Scripture, to join in an affirmation of our faith (we are a church that values tradition, so the Creeds are significant), to pray for the world, the church and each other – remembering those in special need; to join together in the Lord’s Prayer; to acknowledge that the message we have heard should change us and our actions going forward and to hear God’s blessing on us.

That gives plenty of opportunity to involve other people – and I know how much we all appreciate seeing different members of our congregation, and different generations contributing. So if you receive a phone call inviting you to read a lesson or lead our prayers or to be interviewed – please say yes! And of course, we will also be in conversation by phone with Greg to agree a choice of music and hymns that will enhance the worship.

That all has to be done by the Monday or Tuesday of any week, so that individuals can practice and record their ‘bit’ – and so that Greg can begin recording his backing track. By then I will have a ‘script’ of the whole service that can eventually be sent to Mike R. to help him assemble it.

When all that is done, I often start by creating the ‘slides’ that will have responses on them or prayers that I think everyone would like to join in. We have discovered that we can record a ‘narration’ to go with each slide. At the same time I will be working on my sermon/reflection/thought for the day and deciding whether it is best heard in one chunk or split up throughout the service. Finally I record on a computer all the ‘shots to camera’ – trying to ensure that I keep the camera angles and my appearance relatively consistent – I don’t want people distracted because my clothes or hair have changed suddenly! (My Mum was once offered a job in the film industry as a continuity girl. She never took it, but her help would be really useful now!)

So typically there will be six or seven short video clips from me; separate ones from our readers, intercessors, or other contributors; and three or more audio files from Greg. We try to have them with Mike Richards (our technical guru!) by Thursday evening. He then begins the challenge of editing all the bits together with the music in the right place and appropriate slides added as needed. That is the really clever bit!

Then usually by Saturday he sends the finished product to Geoffrey, who then uploads it to YouTube, and puts it on our Website so that it goes ‘live’ at 10am on a Sunday.

I try to also publish a link to the YouTube video on Facebook and Geoffrey has also found a way to make an edited version of the service available for those who do not use computers or smartphones or tablets, but who could manage to hear it by telephone.

So what you see or listen to on a Sunday morning probably lasts a little over 30 minutes – but has taken many hours of ‘people time’ over at least 7 days, to make a reality. And because we have a glorious mixture of computers and mobile devices, we also have a variety of formats that the video clips arrive in. (Poor Mike!) But thanks be for the technology that enables us to attempt the task of bringing worship to you and sustaining the common prayer life of the St Chad’s community. Deo gracias!

(and no, nothing I learned in Theological College really prepared me for this new reality!)

Putting the music together

When we watch and listen to the services we may assume that the singing by the choir is an old recording made when the choir was together before lockdown. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is made by mixing together recordings made by all of the members of the choir in their own homes – a Virtual Choir.

Greg Lewin
Greg Lewin at the organ of St Chad’s Church

Greg Lewin, our Director of Music and Organist, explains how that is done.

The virtual choir has come together to provide music for our online services and to enable the real choir to continue to develop while normal practices are suspended.

At the beginning of each week I prepare a backing track for each of the next Sunday’s hymns. These are sent to the regular members of the choir and to some of the friends who occasionally join us for special events. Each member, in their own home, records themselves singing along to the backing track and sends their recording back to me. Some record on phones or tablets and some on computers. When I receive the recordings I mix them all together using audio editing software to create the performances which you hear in the services.

There are currently fourteen people taking part, but (as some singers record more than one harmony line) the recordings may feature as many as twenty voices. Anyone who would like to join in is welcome to contact me at .

It is a pleasure to do the music and is probably very good for my mental health as it keeps me interested and busy!