Newsletters

The Weekly View - July 30, 2021

Click here for the full NEWSLETTER

In This Issue
  • Weekly message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
  • Weekly Facebook video
  • Outreach Opportunities
  • Upcoming Events

Dear St. Luke family,

Just about the first report I received upon returning from my vacation was that online worshipers experienced problems with sound quality this past Sunday.  That’s a shame, because about the second report I received was that guest preacher Sharon LeClaire’s sermon was excellent.  (The sermon is posted on stlukepres.org and you can listen to it here.)  Rest assured that Beth Potillo-Miller, Erich Miller, and I are working towards a better-quality online worship experience.  

Currently, attending worship in person remains the best solution to the audio-visual problems we’ve experienced with hybrid worship.  Due to the aggressive Delta variant, Marin County has joined a regional movement recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings when indoors in public places to prevent spread of COVID-19.  For the time being, St. Luke joins with Marin County in recommending but not requiring face coverings in worship.  Ultimately, a decision about requiring masks belongs with Session.  Look for Session’s decision about this in the near future.  

Don’t forget that Session approved a plan that includes one Sunday a month with in-person worship only – no Zoom – to give our Zoom engineers a much-needed break.  The plan is that worship will be in person only on the second Sunday of each month, beginning next week, August 8.

We will continue to work to improve our online worship.  It will not happen overnight.  We are in the process of buying and replacing equipment.  Adding equipment means some trial and error.  As long as Zoom is our worship platform, there will be connectivity issues outside of our control.  As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Zoom was never intended as a “performance” platform for music, multiple cameras, and multiple microphones.  It was designed for meetings.  For these reasons, we are looking into other platforms that have fewer quality issues. We will keep you posted, but remember, please, that our hybrid worship problem-solving is being managed by volunteers with day jobs, and by me.  Add “hybrid worship” to the list of the many things they didn’t teach us in seminary.

The things we don’t know how to do, things we can’t predict, things we don’t know about what other people’s lives look like, things that we think we know but it turns out we don’t: these remind us to be humble.  The older I get, the more important I find humility to be.  In this Sunday’s Scripture passage, we see how King David’s hubris impacted the lives of his subjects.  It’s an old, old story that rings true today.  As Abraham Lincoln put it (this is the quotation on our bulletin covers this Sunday), “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

See you on Sunday –

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

Posted by Joanne Whitt with

The Weekly View – July 22, 2021


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL NEWSLETTER

In This Issue
  • Weekly message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
  • Weekly Facebook video
  • This Sunday's Guest Minister, Rev. Sharon LeClaire
  • Outreach Opportunities
  • Upcoming Events

Dear St. Luke family:

When you read this, I’ll still be on vacation.  I hold the whole congregation in my prayers while I am away.  I’m taking the opportunity in this Friday’s email to explain a little bit about the struggles and complications of “hybrid worship.”  Please bear with me; it will help you to understand what Beth, Erich, Jose Guarcas, and I go through on Sunday mornings.  All of this falls into the category of “Things They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary.”  

For the foreseeable future, we intend to offer what we’re calling “hybrid worship” – worship in person in the sanctuary, as well as online for people who still feel unsafe as the pandemic recedes and for those who are traveling or homebound.  We’ve been relying on Zoom, but I’m reminded by Beth and Erich, our Zoom gurus, that we all need to keep in mind that Zoom will never be perfect.  It’s fundamentally an application for meetings, not for broadcasting, and has these challenges:

  • Video resolution is lower than in other applications.
  • Sound quality is at a basic level and not easily controlled.
  • Your own connection to the internet, your device, and your settings will impact your Zoom experience.

Hybrid worship was easier when everyone was on Zoom, because our sound and videos were being controlled from two computers – my laptop and Beth’s – and transitions were pretty easy.  We now use three computers:  

  • One computer for the slides, which is connected to the sanctuary screens and to a second computer that broadcasts to Zoom
  • A second computer that broadcasts to Zoom and is connected to the slide computer and the soundboard, which is connected to a converter connected to the computer which broadcasts to Zoom (are your eyes blurring yet?).  All these connections create lag times, and Zoom has lag issues all by itself.
  • A third computer which controls and monitors the Zoom experience.
  • We also have 3 to 4 other devices (cameras) connected to Zoom so at-home worshipers can see the sanctuary from different angles.

Everyone’s experience on Zoom is different.  Beth, Erich, and Jose are monitoring Zoom from two of our computers, but what they see and hear is most likely different from what folks at home see and hear.  We’re working to improve your Zoom experience.  Over the next several weeks, St. Luke is investing in new equipment:

  • New microphones, and more of them
  • A new soundboard that will connect directly to the computer
  • New cameras for broadcasting

Even with these improvements, some worship sounds can’t be replicated on Zoom: the organ, congregational singing, and prayer requests.  Even with a new camera, the video quality still will be impacted by the number of connections that we’re using in the sanctuary.  More connections to WiFi dilute the quality.  

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be considering whether to continue with Zoom or move to another platform, such as Facebook or Youtube.  These platforms are easier to use and improve video and sound quality.  The downside: they also eliminate the opportunity for folks to talk with each other in the other Zoom squares.  Folks can still use a chat box for written messages, and we can schedule a Zoom coffee hour after worship so folks can catch up.  

Whew.  Thanks for reading all the way through this.  We will keep you posted about our progress as we continue to experiment with our in-sanctuary and at home worship experiences.

This Sunday, the Rev. Sharon LeClaire will be our guest preacher.  She’ll preach from Luke 17:11-19; her sermon is entitled, “Clean.”  I’ll be back next week, and in the pulpit Sunday, August 1.  

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

Posted by Joanne Whitt with

Sunday, July 18, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

For the next two Sundays, I’ll be on vacation.  My husband David and I are headed to the Chicago area, where most of his family lives.  We’ll participate in the delayed celebration of the life of his aunt, who passed away during the pandemic.  It will be a family reunion; memorial services always are, with much laughter and sharing of memories as well as tears.  We’ll spend the week with David’s family, and then drive to Des Moines, Iowa, to celebrate my birthday with my brother and his wife.  My brother and his wife moved to Des Moines from California to be closer to her family.  She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s about 5 years ago, so I’ll be glad to see my baby brother and offer him some emotional support.  After Des Moines, David and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in downtown Chicago before heading home.

The trip is all about family, and relationships, and maintaining ties across distances.  We haven’t seen most of these family members since before the pandemic.  Maintaining in person connections seems to be the work ahead of most of us as the pandemic eases.

That includes maintaining relationships with our church family.  The pandemic forced us to change the way we did things.  We’re all grateful for the technology that allowed us to gather safely for worship.  It turns out some of our meetings and gatherings work just as well or better on Zoom.  A Zoom meeting also reduces our carbon footprint.  But we’ve also learned that we lose something by not being with each other in person.  Many of you will remember the ad slogan during the 1960’s for long distance phone calls: “It’s the next best thing to being there.”  Perhaps Zoom is now the next best thing to being there, but it isn’t being there.  Research shows that people need people, and not just online.  We need to be present, in person, with each other for our emotional and even for our physical health.  Over Zoom, you can’t share in laughter, hear your neighbors sing, catch nuances of expression, or give or receive hugs.  You can’t hear the music as it’s meant to be heard.  You can’t share a story over a cup of coffee and a doughnut.  You can’t greet newcomers and help them to feel welcome at St. Luke.  

It will take time for people to feel comfortable returning to church.  People have different needs for safety.  We must respect that.  This summer, many of us will miss Sundays at church because we are catching up on missed family time.  That is wonderful, something to celebrate.  And I look forward to the time when we are all back in the sanctuary again.

This Sunday, come hear Dvera Hadden, who will be preaching from Chapter 2 of Ephesians, “When Walls Divide Us.”  I’m grateful to Dvera, Becky Viebrock, Beth Potillo-Miller, Erich Miller, Jose Guarcas, liturgist Laura Hislop, and to all who help make worship happen while I’m away.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

Posted by Joanne Whitt with

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