During this time as we respond to the spread of COVID-19, parishes may wish to provide live streams of their services so that those who must stay home feel included. Some churches may at some point not be able to gather in person at all, and may want to offer online worship only. Below are resources:
If your parish would like to host online worship, there are two free products that will help you do that. For either option, you will need: reliable high-speed internet and a computer with a camera, a speaker and a microphone.
You can sign up for a free account here: https://zoom.us/signup. With the basic free account, you will be able to host a meeting with up to 100 participants and for up to 40 minutes. The benefit of Zoom is that you can see other participants in addition to the person leading the service, and other participants may lead certain parts of the service (readings, prayers, etc). Participants may join a Zoom meeting either using their web-based platform, or by downloading the Zoom software. Those without access to high speed internet may call in using a cell or landline phone. Those calling in will only have audio, so worship planners and leaders should be mindful of that.
The Getting Started page of the Zoom website has multiple helpful guides and tutorials.
You can host worship on Facebook Live from your parish’s Facebook page. Simply let people know in advance that you will be hosting worship at a certain time on your parish’s page. First make sure you are an admin on the page. Then, at the appointed time, click “Live.” The benefit of Facebook Live is that many of your congregants may already follow your page, and it may be easier for them to go to a familiar “place” than to use Zoom for the first time. A possible drawback is some people may not have or want Facebook accounts, and only the person filming the video participates.
The Rev. Greg Johnston of St. Anne’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Lincoln, MA has created a useful video primer as well as a PDF guide to Facebook Live for churches.
Other free or low-cost online meeting platforms include: Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Cisco Webex Meetings. You might consider one of these if it is a platform you are comfortable with and already use.
Live Streaming Services
Live streaming a church service can be expensive and requires high speed internet in the church building, which is not possible in some locations. However, there are now lower-cost options available, including mevo, which is simple and user-friendly. The audio and video quality is not as high as it would be with professional streaming, but is better than streaming from a phone.
For an even more short-term solution during this COVID-19 period, you might experiment with the platforms we recommended above for online worship (Zoom and Facebook Live). If you have a wifi signal strong enough in your space, a volunteer can use a phone to live stream the service on Zoom or Facebook Live.
Please note when live streaming services, standard music licenses do not cover streaming. There are a few ways to get around this if your services include music:
- Choose public domain hymns.
- Purchase streaming rights through OneLicense or CCLI. Note, OneLicense is now offering two different gratis license options valid through April 15, 2020.
- Mute the feed during hymns (note this will only work with the Zoom mobile app – Facebook Live does not offer a muting option).