With the continued spread of COVID-19 across Western Washington and the Diocese of Olympia’s attempt to help slow the spread by canceling physical services, the Office of the Bishop would like to offer several options, tips, and resources for churches who are interested in live-streaming their worship services.
First, it is important to note that in this time of uncertainty and fear, the priority should not be on producing the most professional live-stream with the highest quality production values. Many of our churches do not have the financial or technical resources to worry about producing the highest sound or image quality. The priority in any live-stream should be in connecting the members of your church with their faith community. So, while we will briefly mention higher end options for equipment and streaming sites, we will primarily focus on simple solutions that every church has access to right now (or with very little additional cost).
- Facebook Live: While we’ll discuss some of the other options for live-streaming below, Facebook Live is the best and easiest option for churches who are just starting to live-stream their services. Nearly every congregation in the diocese has already set up a Facebook page for their congregation, and most parishioners (no matter their age) are on Facebook – even if it’s just to look at pictures of their grandchildren. Facebook allows you to live-stream from your phone, which means you don’t need to have any additional equipment. You can live-stream for up to eight hours at a time and you can get real-time responses from your viewers at home. It’s also fairly simple for visitors to find your live-stream – all they need to do is go to your Facebook page or follow a direct link.
- YouTube Live: YouTube Live is becoming more and more popular for live-streaming. However, there are some hurdles for smaller churches or churches who are just beginning to live-stream their services. Setting up a business YouTube account is necessary in order to begin live-streaming for a church service, and the process can be cumbersome. Additionally, in order to live-stream from a cell phone, your YouTube channel will need to have more than 1,000 subscribers, which means you would need to set up additional equipment in order to setup the live-stream if you are just starting off. Finally, in spite of proper music licensing, music on YouTube tends to be challenged by copyright holders a bit more frequently which can cause videos to be pulled and accounts to be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved. None of these are insurmountable challenges, but they are still challenges when you are just beginning to live-stream.
- Zoom: Questions have been coming in lately about the uses of Zoom as a way to hold more interactive worship services. With a little more research into Zoom’s terms and conditions, it appears that Zoom has fairly tight restrictions on the use of copyrighted materials, even if you have a license for streaming. This restriction holds whether meetings are closed or are open to all. This means that any service with copyrighted music would not be allowed on the Zoom platform. You could conceivably use Zoom for a spoken service or for a service that strictly used music in the public domain. However, there are a few other things to consider: Zoom meetings and webinars have attendance caps, which would limit the number of potential visitors you might have for these services or, if you reach your limit, might keep members of your congregation from joining in the service. Zoom also has the potential to feel alienating for visitors who might be uncomfortable about attending services via their own webcam. There are ways to mitigate these issues, but communication must be clear. If any of you do choose to use Zoom for a service, please share your experiences with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Other: There are other live-streaming services that have been popping up in the last few years like Twitch (primarily used for gaming) and we’ve heard other ideas like recording messages to send out to parishioners as a pre-recorded video. Investigate what option will work best for your community, your bandwidth, and your resources.
Equipment and Setup
- Cellphone: The easiest live-stream setup is a simple cell phone setup. I would recommend using an inexpensive cell phone tripod (I have included a link in the resources below) to keep the phone stable throughout the service. Because the tripod is approximately four feet tall, consider placing it on a small table or other raised surface to give it some extra height. You can also find a number of other ways to prop, perch, or otherwise secure a cell phone to some surface for the duration of your service. Make a few test recordings to be certain that you can see everything reasonably well and that you can hear clearly. You will want to be able to set up of the phone and leave it running through the duration of the service.
- Laptop/Computer and Webcam: The laptop and webcam setup is another fairly simple option for live-streaming. Depending on where you set the computer, you may need an external webcam and you may need an external microphone. Each computer setup and interface will be unique, so you will need to do some research on your own to start out, and you can contact us at email@example.com for more assistance.
- Other: There are a number of other live-streaming devices that have hit the market that provide incredible quality images and tie directly into platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube Live. These can be expensive but may be worth the eventual investment if you discover that this is an effective way to reach out beyond your walls. Mevo is especially popular with churches and religious organizations who are moving into the live-streaming space.
- One License: If you would like use music in any of your streaming services, you must have a streaming license. One License is the most comprehensive source for titles found in the 1982 Hymnal, and they have an arrangement with Church Publishing Incorporated. During this time, they have also arranged to give anyone with a current One License account a free one-month streaming license, good until April 15. You will need to log into your account and enter the code CRVS20 at checkout. If this situation lasts longer and you would like assistance with your streaming license, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for help in continuing your One License streaming license.
- Public Domain: There are a number of hymns in the public domain that can be used during your live-stream with no license. Please check the list of public domain hymns below before moving forward with individual songs.
- Spoken Services: Spoken services, simple morning prayers without music, or other gatherings that don’t make use of copyrighted material will be easier and less complicated to live-stream than any service with music.
We’ll move forward with best practices, using Facebook Live with a simple cell phone and tripod setup as a model. As this situation continues, we will continue to add more best practices for other platforms, based on requests and the needs of our congregations.
- Planning and Licensing
- You’ll want to carefully plan out all aspects of your service to make sure that any use of music is covered by One License or falls in the public domain. One License has a database that allows you to search for compositions and determine whether or not those titles will be covered. If music you would like to use is not covered, consider using a title that is covered. Otherwise, you will need someone watching the cell phone, ready to stop the feed as soon as the service arrives at the unlicensed song and ready to start it up again one the song has finished.
- Note: Facebook has software that will detect any pre-recorded music that is played during a live-stream and will automatically mute the feed until the feed is turned off, regardless of licensing. There are no streaming licenses that allow you to play pre-recorded music during a live-stream.
- You will also want to create either a digital service bulletin with links to the online Book of Common Prayer and the music you will be singing, a PDF version of the service, or a webpage with text and images embedded on the page. Be sure to check with One License to make sure that you have the rights to use the lyrics and music in a digital format.
- Send out the link to your digital bulletin to members before services begin so that they can download the bulletin or have the webpage loaded and ready to go.
- As stated above, find a place where you can set your cell phone and tripod that gives you a clear, unobstructed view of the altar. You may need to set the tripod on a table or other raised surface to get the best possible vantage point.
- It’s best to orient your cell phone horizontally – this maximizes the horizontal space of your sanctuary, appears more natural to viewers watching from their home computers, and is more likely to capture the attention of a casual individual scrolling through Facebook.
- Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged or plugged in before you begin recording. Make sure that your wi-fi signal or data signal is strong.
- Beginning to Stream
- When you are ready to start streaming, log in to the Facebook app on your cell phone and go to your church’s Facebook page. Click “Publish” to start a new post.
- It’s best to add a brief description of the service here, and you should always include your license from One License: “We’re live for the Third Sunday in Lent, with Bishop Greg Rickel presiding at the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. You can find our entire service information at ecww.org. Music permissions obtained through One License, license [enter license number here].”
- After you’ve entered your description, tap the space “Add to your post.” A new menu will appear. Select “Live Video” and your camera will open. Depending on your settings, the app may ask permission to use your camera and your microphone. Click “Yes” or “Okay” in all instances.
- Facebook Live usually defaults to the rear-facing camera, so you’ll need to switch camera modes. At the top of the screen, there is a camera icon with two circular arrows in the middle. Tap that icon and it will switch to the front camera.
- You’ll see many overwhelming stickers, effects, and options at the bottom of the screen, tap the small circle with the down arrow in the top right corner of the screen (if you have the camera oriented horizontally) to make those boxes disappear.
- Finally, you’re ready to start streaming. Click the long blue button on the right side of the screen (oriented horizontally) to start recording.
- When you are finished recording, you can click the button again to stop recording. Click the “X” at the top of the screen to close the camera.
- It’s a good idea to have someone monitoring the Facebook stream – they can do this remotely – to engage with viewers. They can help people find links to your site, answer any questions people might have, and monitor for trolls or other malicious actors. Think of them as your digital greeters. If they are administrators on your Facebook page, this gives them a little more ability to engage, but even if they aren’t, they can still help monitor and alert administrators to issues.
- It’s important to have one individual in the space who is not leading worship and can check on cell phone in case of an interrupted or muted feed. The Facebook monitor should have that individual’s cell phone number (not the primary recording phone) and should text that individual should an issue arise. The phone should be on vibrate to ensure that it doesn’t disturb the recording.
- After the Service
- Once the video has finished live-streaming, Facebook will ask you if you want to save it in your video library, if you do it will automatically process it and allow it to be viewed by visitors to your Facebook page at a later date.
- Have your Facebook moderator thank everyone for joining you for worship. Consider using Zoom or Skype to host a virtual coffee hour for those who would like to gather after the service. You can send login information in the service bulletin on across Facebook after the service.
- After the service, you will need to log in to your One License account and report every piece of music that you used from their library that is not in the public domain. This is essential to ensure that creators receive royalties for their work.
I’m certain there are many other questions related to streaming services, and if you have any, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com and we will get back to you soon as possible.
We’ll be continuing to release more resources and guides for our churches, and will be updating this page with more resources we find as they come into our office.
- Facebook Live Resources
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One thing to note with Facebook Live is that if you use a Scheduled Live event, non-Facebook users can watch as well (no need to login)
For those that are interested, I’ve setup a computer, using PowerPoint for the Service Bulletin, where we mix pre-recorded videos for Prelude, Hymns, Psalm, Readings, and announcements, with live video for the rest of our Episcopal service (San Diego, CA diocese). This takes some technical skill, and a person (me, in our case) to run the computer during a live streamed service, but our result has been an engaged community during interactive services (priest responds to Facebook comments during Sermon). I’m happy to share our setup with those interested.