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Hallo again to all.

One of our friends in the States recently assisted with technology for a large event at a cathedral, a building dating from the early 1800s. By some standards, it's a quite new edifice, given the age of churches and cathedrals in the British Isles. By the timeline of edifices in the States, it's considered quite old. Our friend regaled us with tales of poking into dark spaces, of wires, faulty circuits, fibreglass and wood splinters encountered while preparing the sanctuary for its first webcast.

An old Circuit Box By whatever metric, whether new or old, whether cathedral or church, technology — or the lack of it — in our church buildings can bedevil us in this wired age. If the building has electric wiring, it's often antiquated and outlets are few. The number of electrical circuits, adequate for electrical lighting, are woefully skimpy for, say, video.

Often churches point to their sound systems or closed loops as evidence of technology, but as useful as those may be, wiring for sound sometime during the last half of the 20th century hardly counts as high tech. And those systems are as varied and quirky as the churches themselves. For visiting tech folks, they're a mystery to be solved. And the usual suspects — members of the parish staff, an innocent-bystander warden, or an unsuspecting curate — can't answer the questions tech folk ask.

So where does that leave most of our churches? In the dark pre-Internet ages? Well, yes. Bringing the Internet into older spaces isn't child's play. Wireless signal is masked by thick walls of stone or concrete. Running the necessary cables into a sanctuary usually requires burrowing into cellars, scaffolding into attics — and very long drill bits.

In those places where the sanctuary is separated from the parish offices, the volunteers who tend the parish buildings and grounds are faced with the need to create a network that joins buildings together. One parish we know hired a contractor to tunnel under the tarmac drive and pathways between their buildings; then engaged another specialist to bore through the half-metre thick stone walls of the church. All this heavy, expensive work just to place conduit for bringing wires to the sanctuary! (After all was complete, they polished the granite core, mounted it on a wooden frame, added a brass plaque, and gave it to the retiring rector as a farewell gift.)

Beyond the wires, conduit, and cables, venturing into multimedia leads to additional complexities. And a catechism, without clear answers, soon follows: Cameras? Where do you mount them? What about the lighting? Projectors? Projection screens? Where will the control booth be? Who will run it? And there is, er, the cost. Many parishes don’t remember to budget for electrical circuitry when embarking on this round of techno-renovation.

St Philips Before succumbing to the lure of the latest multimedia techno-gadgetry and surviving the disruption of its installation, we need to ask why we are doing this. Have clergy, laity and those with technical knowledge sat down and taken counsel together before the first wire is pulled? Are we worried that we must keep pace with megachurches or be 'Left Behind'? Can we envision and imagine new possibilities for our liturgy and worship? One can browse Mystery Worshipper reviews (like this one or this one) to see how multimedia is incorporated in very different ways in our churches — not always with the intended results.

Technology is expensive. It can be tedious and mind-numbing to work through the planning details. And it can seem odd and unAnglican in some ways. But without those wires bringing electricity and ethernet to the organ loft in the back of that cathedral, people from round the world wouldn't have been able to watch and hear the event.

One of those who 'tuned in' is a member of a small vibrant parish in a remote place on the equator. Her church has no electricity, except the spiritual kind; the music is an a capella choir accompanied by percussion and the sounds of sheep and lambs outside. She saves her precious mobile-phone minutes for occasional email and web browsing, and splurged to 'attend' that online service. She emailed afterwards:

I want you to know how wonderful it was to be with you 'this morning'. it was absolutely amazing to witness a remarkable celebration. My heart is singing, not just humming, in the darkness tonight. I remain truly thrilled to pieces to have been 'with' you all! Asante sana.*

Podcasts and webcasts from round the Anglican Communion create connections between us. For the homebound, for those in remote places, for those curious about Anglicans, for all these and many more, this strange and new — yet vital — way makes them part of the Body. Who knows what web-surfing soul will stumble across our virtual thresholds? The door should always be open.

See you next week. Kwaheri ya kuonana.**

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* Many thanks (Kiswahili)
** Goodbye until we see each other (Kiswahili)
Last updated: 8 March 2009

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