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September 18, 2020

Thinking outside the box: Streaming solutions for multiple-location worship


The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the ways in which we are able to come together to worship. No longer able to worship at our local parish, we have to rely on virtual livestreams to connect to Mass every Sunday. As some parishes start to open in a limited capacity, they have had to get creative with reaching parishioners in multiple locations. Some have opted for streaming to their parish halls, while others are opting for holding Masses in wide open spaces, like a field, where parishioners can maintain social distancing.

Sister Cathy Doherty, Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, MO, has provided insights into the ways in which her parish has dealt with reopening.

Thinking outside the box: Streaming solutions for multiple-location worship

Celebrating the Eucharist

Due to the size of our church, which holds 350 people, and knowing that at our Spanish Masses have standing room only, we had to think of a creative way as we reopened to have Eucharist. With our guidelines, we could only have 80 people in the church. Therefore, we found a different way to celebrate. We have steps leading up to the entrance of our church, on the top there is a landing facing a parking lot. We asked one parish volunteer to search for two microphones. He found a Lavaliere mic that is a transistor for the president and those on the landing to have. We just need one mic, and everyone on that landing is heard through the one mic. We turn the mic to FM 88.3 station, and everyone in the parking lot turns their radio station accordingly. Some people bring chairs to sit out under the trees on the side, six feet apart from each other, and with a transistor radio, they can hear the Mass from there.

Distribution of Communion

For Communion, we have four ministers that go out to the cars. As a minister approaches the side of the car, a person gets out with a mask on. They then lower their mask to receive Communion and return to their car.

Collection

For the collection, we have blocked our parking lot off — everyone enters at one end and leaves at the other. We have ushers at the parking lot entrance and exit. We also have ushers directing traffic and parking. Like they would at Six Flags or Disneyland. The ushers at the entrance and exit have a container lined with a trash bag that they hold up. Parishioners roll down their window and drop their collection in the container, either as they come into the parking lot or as they leave. During the first weekend that we reopened, we also gave them the missals that they now keep in their car. We do not collect these.

Parishioners in multiple locations

Here are some effective ways parishes can effectively reach parishioners in a multiple location setup.

Use closed-circuit TV for another building on the same property

  • CCTV can be used to connect parishioners to a Mass that’s happening in a separate room/hall of the church.
  • Used as a surveillance method, CCTV could prove effective in connecting to parishioners in a separate building on the property.

Overflow Rooms

  • Proximity – How close is the overflow room?
  • Latency – What degree of latency is acceptable?
  • Networking – Do you have good access to LAN?

Overflow Room Configurations

  • HDMI Cables
    • Pro
      • Most straightforward approach. Use a splitter and additional cables to send one signal to multiple monitors/displays.
    • Con
      • Only works if your overflow room is close by. If your overflow room is on another floor or on the opposite end of the building, streaming to the room from over the venue’s LAN is preferable.
  • Real-time streaming protocol (RTSP)
    • Pro
      • This gives you the flexibility to stream to your overflow room using a computer, laptop or dedicated hardware device.
    • Con
      • Possible latency issues may arise.
      • Not as simple as plugging in a wire.
  • Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)/Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)
    • Pro
      • What sets UPnP/DLNA apart from RTSP are its automatic stream discovery and playback capabilities. These two features make this protocol more seamless and user friendly. If your overflow room video setup includes a Smart TV that supports UPnP/DLNA, the process might not be any different from changing inputs with the remote.
    • Con
      • Significantly higher latency than RTSP
      • Many devices don’t let you control buffering
      • Requires full control to cross networks
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Facebook or YouTube
    • Pro
      • Livestream on YouTube or Facebook and display the video feed on the monitor in your overflow room
      • Offers less network complexity.
    • Con
      • Causes higher latency and unpredictability.
      • Internet bandwidth could be strained

Parking Lot Services

  • Use an FM transmitter to broadcast your service.
  • Have your parishioners park and remain in their vehicles.
  • Place signage throughout the parking lot to direct listeners to the right station.
  • Select an FM frequency that is not currently in use.
  • Plug the FM transmitter into your audio output.
  • The FM transmitter will broadcast the sermon to each car radio.
  • They can now participate and hear Mass while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Thinking outside the box: Streaming solutions for multiple-location worship