God’s word instead of games: streamers at work
Two who know what they are talking about: Priest Steven Willmer and his son, Damian, are investing their technological know-how to stream divine services for their congregation.
Many tech savvy people are currently active all over the world ensuring that divine services reach the faithful. In Camberley, it is a father and son team who are managing the online streaming of divine services. nacukie news, the newsletter of the New Apostolic Church United Kingdom, Ireland, and Isle of Man reported about this in its latest issue.
Priest Steven Willmer originally started out as a mining engineer, although he always enjoyed software development projects. The challenges were invigorating and he found them much more satisfying than anything else, he says. When the opportunity arose to turn his hobby into a career, he jumped to IT. “Can’t say I ever regretted it.”
As a child, Damian spent most of his time playing computer games, but he wanted more. He wanted to understand how it all worked. And before he knew it, he was building and tinkering with computers as much as possible. Ultimately, he went to university and established a career as a software developer.
Congregations around the world had to reorganise themselves with the start of the coronavirus pandemic to make divine services possible for all. This was also the case for the Camberley congregation, situated about 50 kilometres south-west of Central London. The father and son team took up the challenge of streaming the services from there, sacrificing a lot of their time. They saw to the hardware set-up, tested different things, and tried to solve the biggest initial challenges.
In spite of the intensive preparation, the first service was probably the worst, Priest Willmer remembers. “At the last minute I decided to use a laptop, because it was more powerful. Unfortunately, the USB connections to the sound did not work on the laptop causing severe sound issues during the service. By the time I realised what the problem was, it was too late to do anything. Lesson learned. No last minute changes, and make sure you use proper equipment.”
Damian Willmer says that the hardware set-up was the biggest challenge. Luckily, with a group of extremely talented and committed individuals, these issues were overcome.
Planning down to the second
It takes teamwork to stream a divine service and begins with the preparation work. On Mondays already, Priest Willmer creates the YouTube stream schedule and starts the communication process with the Apostle, the officiating ministers, and the music co-ordinators.
On Thursday evenings then the assisting ministers and musicians perform sound tests during a Skype meeting. And Saturday afternoon is spent finalising the music programme and ensuring the music is planned to the second to avoid any over- or underruns. The software used for the stream is then configured and the technical aspects tested and rehearsed for each service. When everything has been finalised and set-up, Damian rehearses the Sunday service structure in a streaming tool. On the Sunday itself there are some last-minute music, sound, and mic checks.
Enjoying the service
During the service one person normally manages the software, doing the scene transitions and ensuring the stream goes out. A second person manages the in-church sound and is responsible for making any camera position adjustments. Another thing that has to be looked out for is that the appropriate microphones are muted or unmuted at the correct time.
“Every service is marginally less stressful than the previous,” Damian says, and his father adds that during the service they are a little more relaxed and can enjoy the sermon, “keeping one eye on the technology”.
Steven and Damian are grateful for all the support from everyone involved. It has been a tremendous team effort, with everyone sacrificing their time and energy to contribute their talents. “Now God’s word and God’s love can reach the hearts of the members every week. We have all been blessed by this.”