ragged edges


Originally uploaded by jon.swanson

We streamed our morning celebration today for the 5th week. (I know, most people would say church, or church service, or worship service, but I’m trying to figure out how to consistently communicate that church isn’t a place, it’s a people). Our son watched from home as he had to go to work early today, and my friend Connie watched from Austin, TX as she drank coffee and prepared for her own gathering.

As I was watching through the viewfinder, I started wondering how much I need to worry about the ragged edges of the stream.

For example:

1. Anyone stumbling onto our stream or even showing up through my weekly twitter announcement would have little context. There isn’t anything on the stream about who we are or what we believe or what we are trying to do or who those little people are.

2. We aren’t doing anything in the gathering to be more photogenic, more friendly to those who may watch.

3. Because this isn’t a program but is our normal Sunday gathering, it is a stream that may be politically-incorrect. It may need translation into real language (“What he means by sanctification is….”). It has “performance standards” that aren’t up to Broadway or Idol or even the larger churches in town.

4. We didn’t even have a slide on the ustream channel that told when we are having our stream (but you can see that I’ve fixed that at least).

I was starting to fret about this. I wrote a note to myself: “If I really believed that this tech stuff isn’t a toy but is a tool for talking WITH people about real lives, how seriously would I take mastering competence?”

And that’s a great question. And I don’t know the answer. How much do the ragged edges of production matter? How much is slickly-produced church a reason that people find church irrelevant to real life…which isn’t slickly produced at all? By having poured so much effort in trying to look professional at times, have we made it seem that church is as far from real life as a sitcom or a movie?

On the other hand, if we don’t attempt to translate the theological jargon into words that connect to real life, if we don’t figure out how to tell stories as well as Jesus did, if we don’t have enough respect for the viewer to get the best possible audio and video signal, aren’t we being rude?

So what do you think? What are the edges I/we need to think about trimming and which ones remind me that I am fully human and that’s the point?


9 responses to “ragged edges

  1. I happened to tune in this morning to the early service. First time. Observations:

    1. slickness – totally unimportant and maybe even counter productive.

    2. audio quality – extremely important – I couldn’t hear/understand very well. This is, of course, limited by the clarity of the mumbler up on the platform – had a hard time understanding a couple people live this morning.

    3. limiting religious jargon – very important – this is something we should ideally be aiming for as a body. let’s learn how to explain things in laymans terms and stick to that on the platform and on the driveway and on the school parking lot. Of course the first step is knowing what WE mean by the terms ourselves.

    4. Is there any way to shoot people more head on so that we aren’t looking down on the tops of their heads from a vast distance?

  2. I didn’t tune in however…

    In following Anna’s reply. Slickness is a bad word choice. It already sounds loaded. Think “production value”. Whitney Hoffman has improved her podcast over time. The folks at sqpn.com are really doing some great stuff in the way of quality production. Listen to/watch “Thet Catholic Show” Listen to the podcast of Greg and Jennifer Willits. Listen to the podcast of Fr. Roderick doing his “Daily Breakfast”. For me, they all represent good production and it matters. If you refer to it as ‘slick’, you’ve already set up a roadblock to getting better.

    2. I would agree with Anna about audia quality for the reasons noted above.

    3. Jargon…I agree with Anna again. I think we make too many assumptions about what people (at church) know and understand when we say things. Our priest received the greatest number of supportive comments after a homily which took the time to explain Advent. I don’t think people always know and understand…I know I don’t.

    4. If I were in your church, you might have trouble with glare using your top down view. I’m with Anna again.

    So, to summarize…I’m with Anna on 3 out of 4. More importantly, I am with Anna here, with you, having a conversation about church and technology. What could be better?

  3. so yeah, we’re talking. Which is the point. Or at least part of it. And we are talking across time and geography.

    ‘m willing to thing production values, though there has to be a rawness somewhere. But that doesn’t have to be in incompetence. It can be in attitude somewhere else.

    Audio makes ALL the difference, and, as one of the mumblers, I know that I have to figure it out. I’m having a technical issue right now with the webcam feature of the camera overriding the ability to plug in another mic.

    I love the advent example, and the playground image. I have to quit assuming that people actually know everything. Including me.

    So thanks, you two, for talking with each other and me.

    Anyone else?

  4. ummm…don’t know whether I mumbled, but I know that I had no idea we were streaming for the past five weeks. Not that it matters to me personally, but it might matter to someone else. TV stations get release forms and all that before they put your face on a screen. Might it be necessary or appropriate to ask those on the platform whether they care that you’re filming them? (Webcamming them…whatever?) just a thought…Beyond that, I really like Rob’s stressing “production value”. I’ve known people who, in the name of being more spiritual, gave very unpolished presentations when they could’ve used some coaching and some more rehearsal…We don’t all have to be professionals, but stuff like good sightlines, good audio quality, and some context as to who in the world we are, will all help the message. Anything which hinders the message being received at all is something we need to fix.

  5. What I am hearing when you say “rawness” and “ragged edges”, Jon, is authenticity.
    You also used the word attitude.

    It seems to me that a community of people coming together to worship, to be church is authentic. It seems to me, that the leaders of this flock who stand up and speak, minister, share, reflect and teach are/will be/ need to model this authenticity.
    The fact is, that you don’t sound like a used car salesman. Those types are the ones who are looking to smooth out the ragged edges and make things appear better than they are.
    You get that being human is hard and real and that relationships with others are important, but messy at times. You understand that a relationship with God could never be perfect.
    Look at Galatians 5:1, 13-18. Paul talks to us about freedom and acknowledges that we have important choices to make with this freedom and that it is hard and messy. He talks about us ‘biting and devouring one another’. I don’t know how much more messy it could get. Paul encourages us though to be guided by the spirit above the law, but as noted not before acknowledging the ragged edges that exist in our quest to be better and submit to this guidance.

    What I am saying, is that you genuinely have people trying to understand, trying to be guided by the Spirit and in that process the edges are and will be ragged at times. You have never struck me as a person who is trying to smooth out those edges for appearance sake. You have always struck me as a person who (metaphor switch, watch out) sees the waves coming over the bow of the boat in people’s lives and while you may not understand why, you are willing to be there with people during these moments because relationship is important, and because you know that Jesus is in the boat too. The simple vessel weather worn, a little water logged with ragged edges.

  6. I guess when I saw the word “slickness” I was thinking performance not production. I think we should do everything we reasonably can to produce a quality image that delivers the message clearly. But let us be careful never to cross over into a performance mindset. A worship celebration has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with wholehearted sacrifice of praise.

  7. Laurie – you raise a good question. I’ve been focusing on proof of concept – can we make this work as a technology platform–and not looking at the on platform part. (In fact, what started this was getting ready for a wedding where we need to have a stream of some sort for Grandma.) But i’ll let people know.

    Rob, I think that you are right about the authenticity as ragged idea. I’m concerned deeply about us being so practiced or routine that we lose the revelation. And I love your picture of the boat.

    And Anna, you’ve got the performance concern right. We so often can’t help ourselves (he says, knowing that even writing a comment on people’s comments is, in part, an attempt to measure up, to be a good host of the conversation). However, excellence rather than performance, honesty rather than niceness, ragged edges rather than artifice, people rather than programs, storms in boats on the sea with Jesus rather than sitting on the shore wondering where Jesus wandered off to.

    thanks, friends.

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