A View from the Balcony
"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.
One of the most bewildering elements of prerecording the worship services is the nonlinear nature of the experience from our perspective. For example, we taped the interior portion of the Maundy Thursday service last Thursday. I will record the Prelude and Musical Meditation for that service today, four days later as I write. In addition, we have a weekly template of prerecording the following Sunday service on Wednesday and Thursday. As the music for the 6:00 p.m. Zoom service is now also prerecorded, that necessitates a weekly evening recording session to accommodate musicians’ schedules. Musical Offerings for the 10:00 a.m. service are typically recorded at night as well and sometimes weeks in advance to account for travel schedules and availability. This week, I am also recording the Good Friday Musical Meditation. Simultaneously, Anna Broskie is assembling the virtual choir anthem for the Easter morning Musical Offering, which is a time-consuming task. So, it is not unusual for me to tune in to Sunday worship and be completely surprised by the Prelude (“Oh, I remember playing that one!”)
Now, I do thrive in the abstract as part of my vocation, even unofficially living in my own time zone (approximately 15’ behind: HST— Heiskanen Standard Time!) And this writing is not meant to be a complaint either. One does what you must during these strange times to make it work—that’s it! But this dizzying experience does make you that much more long for the community and connection of in person worship.
I receive my first shot of Moderna on Thursday this week! Many of us in the Plymouth community and millions around the nation are fully vaccinated or soon will be. Isn’t that amazing?! While we all have our head down in being creative and undertaking the work at hand, it is nothing short of awesome to have an eye wide open to the return of physical connection in our church community. And without the assistance of those adept at technology (Anna, Dean Wallace, Stuart Yoshida, Jim Medlock, and others…thank you!!!), none of our online worship services would even be possible.
As a fan of Dr. Who and his/her time machine the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space, don’t you know!), I can’t help but feel as if myself and the staff are bouncing around through time but just a week or two into the past or future. I would prefer to just walk at this point—and wait. Soon, that will be the new norm.
Dir. of Music
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life. Read his mostly-weekly Music Minute here.