"The balcony is closed." These words would often end the weekly television program At the Movies by film critics Siskel and Ebert, who would review films in an empty theater balcony outside normal business hours for our benefit, presumably. Well, Plymouth took steps a little over a year ago to ensure our balcony is always open–albeit a virtual balcony!
When Pastor JT Smiedendorf referred to the online viewers last Sunday as being in the "virtual balcony," that struck me as rather profound. Pandemic aside, the 21st century church has been redefined by technology allowing for meaningful outreach to corners of the world we never thought possible. People are being inspired–transformed –by the Spirit and message of love and inclusion transmitted globally from our worship services now. You will hear testimonies from viewers about how this has impacted their faith and worldview in coming weeks. It is beautiful that we can now share the Good News from our sanctuary to others searching for spiritual sustenance.
Our Audio Visual Team is an amazing group of people who run the sanctuary audio and livestream broadcasts each week. Co-chaired by Stuart Yoshida and Nic Redavid, their leadership and technical expertise has allowed our dedicated volunteers to learn the ropes of the new installation and bring quality broadcasts to you and our "virtual balcony" each week. C. Habit Blunk is contracted primarily to operate the video and livestream applications of the system, and we thank them for their enthusiastic and consistent service to Plymouth this past year. As a Deacons Board liaison to the AV Team, I know the challenges they meet and the gung ho spirit of this group and thank them for all their work. By all means, stop by the sound booth and say "Thank you" as well. They deserve it!
We are always looking for new volunteers to assist with audio and if you are interested please let myself or a member of the team know. All this is to ensure that at Plymouth we lean into the new virtual church realities of this digital age. While nothing can replace the sense of community of personal interaction in a live sanctuary worship setting, worshipers online are being reached and filled with the Spirit through our digital efforts. And that is no less the mission of God's church as well.
Let's keep the balcony WIDE open.
In case you missed last Sunday's Organ Encounter (or want to see it again):
Mark Heiskanen is Plymouth's Dir. of Music and Organist. Learn more about him and read his weekly Music Minute here.