Following an extraordinary time for everyone caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the church too was struggling, and continues to struggle, with new ways of doing what we do. Even in the midst of a society lockdown, there is even more need for ministry, need for worship, need for communication.
At Christ Church Cathedral, with the help of many, we continue to live into this “new normal.” Over the months March to June, we gained some experience with some very different ways of doing things. Most of what we attempted came with a considerable learning curve as most everything we did required new, unfamiliar ways. The good news is that we have that experience behind us and will without doubt be better prepared for our future because of it.
Some very good and interesting questions have been asked over the past several weeks. The answers too are interesting and its worth sharing them for the inquiring minds that want to know.
How much does streamed Cathedral worship cost?
YouTube is a free service provided by Google. There is no charge to upload or watch videos on YouTube. It is necessary for the YouTube account to “qualify” to be able to upload videos longer than 15 minutes. The qualification involves making an application for the account and a confirmation of ownership credentials, a relatively easy process. Other streaming services are also available at reasonable rates. But ...
While it’s free to stream, it’s not always “free” to create the content. It depends largely on the people with the skill set necessary and the availability of the equipment necessary. If either of those is lacking, it indeed costs. Production by a professional can easily be outside of a realistic budget for most churches. Unless someone is willing to loan personal computer and camera equipment, there is that upfront cost.
If you watched video streams from the cathedral during that time, you will have noticed changes to how the video was delivered. We began on that first Sunday in March with a “live” stream, meaning that what the camera was seeing was immediately broadcast on YouTube. There were some glitches in that attempt and we quickly came to a decision that pre-recording and posting for Sunday might be the less stressful approach. Pre-recorded and edited video was provided from then to the first Sunday of in-person worship on 07 July. On that Sunday, we returned to the live stream approach.
Why? Over the course of Sundays pre-recorded, the Dean began to experiment a bit with multiple video sources. Since the final product needed to be edited before posting to YouTube, there was an opportunity to put some additional polish on the project. Using several personally owned pocket HD video cameras, in addition to the one webcam feed being provided by Peter Jacobs, three additional angles were recorded. Using software and multi-clip editing technology, these were synchronized and an edited final cut produced using a relatively high-end computer and software. The recording itself is the thin edge of the wedge. Editing such a project means 8-10 hours of rather intense editing work, assuming all goes as planned. Even then, it’s an amateur product, although probably utterly impossible 10 years ago. Cost is not always measured in dollars. Needless to say, all things considered, the true “cost” is somewhat substantial.
So time is an issue. The skills required is an issue. The imposition, inconvenience, and perhaps even availability of using personally owned hardware is an issue - the moment the person isn’t available neither is the equipment.
How many people viewed streamed Cathedral worship over the last several months?
When viewing a YouTube video, at the bottom left (or in the brief description under the video thumbnail in a list of videos) you should see how many views the video has had. This number is not necessarily an assurance the viewer watched the whole vide, but it does give an indication of how many opened it at least once.
Cathedral Sunday Stream Views
12 Jul 20
31 May 20
26 Apr 20
05 Jul 20
24 May 20
19 Apr 20
28 Jun 20
17 May 20
12 Apr 20
21 Jun 20
10 May 20
05 Apr 20
14 Jun 20
03 May 20
29 Mar 20
07 Jun 20
22 Mar 20
* Live stream
How many people listen to Cathedral podcasts (audio)?
Audio podcasts have been consistently made available for Cathedral worship and sermons since early in 2015. Since March of 2019, average subscribers are 77-80 with the maximum being 121 during that time. “Subscribers” are the number of users who have used podcast applications to “subscribe.” being notified whenever a new podcast file is posted. “Hits” to Cathedral podcasts average 125 per day, according to Feedburner, although most in the know point out that a "hit" is only an indication of a click, which could be from a person or a web search robot. Worship podcasts are a simple upload of the recorded audio with some edits to volume levels, and removing dead space and distracting imperfections in the recording where necessary. Sermons are primarily by the Dean and include an introductory and concluding voice-over.
How has the Cathedral been able to remain financially stable during the pandemic lock-down?
It is without doubt that the appeal, guided and prepared by our Stewardship Team early on, to “catch up and keep up” with offerings, was instrumental in communicating the reminder to all of us who support the ministry of Christ Church Cathedral. The efforts to begin e-offering or slide offering envelopes through the mail slot at the Memorial Hall have been responsible for our being able to stay ahead and meet on-going expenses. We continue to make cost-saving adjustments and some of those expenses were understandably lower during that time, but many also continue. We should be especially thankful that we were able to maintain staff salaries. Most members of staff continued to work without being physically present in their offices.
The other significant reality is the generous Federal Government initiative, extended to charitable organizations late in March, to keep Canadians working during the pandemic crisis,. The Cathedral was fortunate to have qualified for the federal wage subsidy (75%) for the first three periods. Future qualification for that subsidy remains to be seen. To the end of June 2020 we find ourselves $7,743 behind in expenses over revenue. It could have been much worse.
Will we be able to continue with streamed worship video even after we have resumed in-person worship?
It’s the question many are asking as many continue to rely on being able to join us “virtually” without being present “personally.” A valuable offering indeed.
The short answer is, providing a live stream version of worship requires some technical skill but is relatively less labour intensive than creating an edited, pre-recorded video. It’s a worship outreach the Cathedral needs to give serious consideration. The barriers include not being equipped with the hardware or the engaged skilled individuals necessary to make this just part of what we normally do.
With some equipment and some trained operators, we’d be able to do what we have “cobbled” together over the last few months. With some additional equipment, we would be able to do a good job of providing worship broadcast as a mainstay, making live streaming readily available for any event within the Cathedral.
We’re currently investigating the dollar cost of a set up for that possibility.
If you have a further question or a thought, why not leave a comment on this post? Type in the comment box and leave your name and email.
I started viewing in March & haven’t missed a week. I live in Massachusetts & while I cannot be with my family who are all in Canada, it keeps us together. It has been my return to church after 18 years. I share the link with my 90 yr old Aunt in Saint John and she has been viewing every week as well. I don’t even remember when she was last at church besides for a funeral.