The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Religion

September 7, 2012

Live services take to Internet

First United Methodist online

SHARON — The Rev. Richard Roberts had a dream of taking the services from First United Methodist Church of Sharon beyond the sanctuary.

He had no idea that two years ago a man with a career in computer systems and software programming and designing would walk into his church and say he wanted to get involved. But that’s what happened when Chuck Roberts and his wife Sarah joined the church.

“I said I wanted to help. What can I do?” Chuck Roberts asked.

He and the pastor share a last name, but aren’t related. But Chuck Roberts, accustomed to presenting formal proposals to businesses and industries, wrote the church a 10-page proposal with three or four phases. The ultimate goal of that plan was to livestream church services.

And that goal is expected to become a reality Sunday during the 10 a.m. service.

Chuck Roberts and a team of volunteers have worked on the details to make it happen over the past 20 months. It’s meant buying a computer and high-quality camera, planning a few minor physical changes in a room above the sanctuary and researching things like insurance policies, privacy concerns and the copyright rules for the music played and sung during services.

As part of his music research, Chuck Roberts investigated the copyright of all 3,000 pieces in the church’s musical library. With the music minister they’ve categorized pieces based on whether they have the all-clear to play and broadcast them online. In the instance the minister wants to use a song without the copyright clearances, Chuck Roberts said the church has the ability to cut into the livestream and supplant another song online.

The volunteers took one step toward their technology upgrade goal in December 2010. That’s when the church started recording Rev. Roberts’ sermons and posting them online at www.sharonfirstumc.com At that point the goal was to reach out to those who were ill or might have missed the Sunday worship service.

Livestreaming the Sunday worship services is phase two. Past that, there are dreams of having a big enough team of technologically-trained volunteers that the church can offer to stream weddings, baptisms and funerals online so far-off loved ones who can’t travel here for important events don’t have to miss them.

It could come in handy for families with loved ones deployed overseas in the military, or older relatives who aren’t able to travel.

Past that, the church could add additional cameras to the sanctuary to add even more views. For now, there’s a single camera working from a second-story room above the sanctuary space. In all, the church has spent $5,000 to make this happen – and the amount was contributed by an anonymous donor.

“We’re excited,” Chuck Roberts said. “A lot of young people are excited about media. We’re bringing it to the church. With this we have the capability to do some interesting things in the future.”

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