Saved to Serve: Sundays In The New Normal
Posted on 1 Oct 2020 by CERC
CERC Foundation Day Celebration
Did you know there are around 36 ministry departments in CERC? From the cleaning team to the music ministry, we believe we are all saved to serve!
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes unnoticed, but these are no less important to our collective ministry. Everything you experience on a virtual Sunday or a Geddit event (and even what you’re reading on your social media now) is a result of many departments coming together to work for one common goal – the glorifying of God’s name.
These include work done by the Technical Services & Support (TSS) department. What do they do? Why do they do what they do? To find out, we spoke to Joel, the department head of the Technical Services and Support department.
Could you introduce yourself and the department briefly?
So I’m Joel, I’m currently a member of CERC. I currently work as a TV producer in Astro SuperSport; I am also a student! I’m a Master student in Taylor’s University.
I’m currently the Head of Department (HOD) for the Technical Services and Support (TSS) department in CERC, and I’m also the Assistant HOD for RMS, which is short for Recording and Media Services.
What’s the difference between TSS and RMS?
So, in Technical Services, we are composed of various departments that help run the technical pieces that keep our Sundays running. So for example, under TSS, we have PA, which are your Public Address systems, like your speakers, your mixers — everything that we do from the back to front of the house. And then we have the projection team, which is responsible for whatever content you see on your screens — or on slides if you’re watching online — on a weekly Sunday basis. And then we have the lighting team, which is quite important, especially for special events in church — they make sure we have adequate lighting for the stage, and also the hall when necessary. Then there are two other departments that don’t directly fall under my responsibility, but that are also working closely with the TSS team. Firstly is the Virtual ministry headed up by Adrian Miller. We work very closely because Virtual ministry and TSS come pretty much hand in hand. Virtual ministry covers everything you see virtually online, so the way we support them is by providing the technical service that they need to help put whatever they need to put up online. From your sermons to songs, and even just your emceeing.
And then another department that is also involved very closely with TSS is RMS. They are primarily what you will know as your camera guys. They are the ones recording your sermons behind the scenes, and they are also the ones who are editing your sermons and putting it up online before it gets published on the website. So under TSS, there are three official departments that work under it (i.e. PA, Projection and Lighting), and two that come to support the ministry together (i.e. Virtual Ministry and RMS).
Wow that’s actually a lot of behind-the-scenes work that most of us probably don’t know about. Let’s talk about a sermon for example. What’s the flow like? Who does what? How long does it all take?
Over the past three months during the Movement Control Order (MCO), we’ve experienced a lot of different things and time cycles with our sermons…I think I can name you about three different case scenarios.
The first case would be pre-MCO. The RMS team would be recording the sermons, the PA team would make sure that we have audio through the mics and sound systems. After a PM sermon on Sunday, a video editor from RMS will take all the content, edit and export it, then an IT team will have to link it up to the website.
The second case was when we were in the MCO. So during the MCO, what was happening was that preachers, instead of being able to come to church to preach, had to record from their homes. To adhere to the SOP at that point of time, we got our preachers and emcees to record themselves on their mobile phones. We then compiled all of the videos in a Google Drive. An editor from RMS will take all the information, edit it together, then the projection team will prepare slides which we will ‘patch in’. And then after that it’s pretty much the same as the first scenario except we had to upload to Facebook and YouTube too, not just the website.
And then during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), which is a mix of both the first and second scenario. Instead of the preacher preaching at home, we now actually are able to record the preacher in church with a crew, so in a way we simulate what a normal Sunday is like, but without an actual audience in the building. So we have our emcees, our music, and our preacher all recorded, usually separately, and then from there we will have an RMS editor put that all together.
So to answer your question on how long it takes to put up a sermon, I’d say from recording to uploading it on the Internet, it would be about 16-18 hours. That’s without factoring in the preacher’s sermon preparation time of course.
Then again, you guys had to pivot within such a small amount of time and completely transfer the entire Sunday experience online. What was the transition like?
It definitely was a lot of trial and error. So for the first two to three months of the MCO, we as a team would meet up every Monday night to have feedback, talk through the challenges of the week, and then go through another cycle of prep for the following week. Our weekends don’t start on a Saturday, but on a Thursday, sometimes even Wednesday night. And then it just keeps going. And it was like that for about 2-3 months, until the RMCO. But even during the RMCO, it wasn’t as if we could straight away go into the building. There’s still a lot of reliance on making sure that we had an able team, able to support the preachers, and support the work of the Word. It still took a lot of effort and trial and error definitely, but we learnt a lot and I think the one way I’ll put it is that, every Sunday since the start of the MCO has not been the same Sunday. So we need to learn to adapt, to be responsible, and to make good decisions; basically help people to be able to experience church from where they are.
What is it like to serve WHILE everyone is watching the sermon. Do you guys even get to watch the sermon?
Although I’m the HOD for TSS, there are also HODs for all the departments that come under TSS. So projection has one HOD, PA has one HOD. So thankfully a lot of these HODs that work under TSS all have had a certain prior amount of experience, so their experience has certainly been helpful in working through the stress and struggles of doing it. We do get to watch the sermons, and I am an editor for RMS myself, so I have gotten the opportunity to edit some of the sermons, and I would say it’s not easy, because it requires a lot of perseverance to be able to go through long sermons, especially to be able to vet through the content we’re listening to, and then to be able to put up slides at the right timing and so on. Because most of the HODs in our groups are responsible Growth Group leaders also and are taking care of their respective growth groups, they make it a point to find time and listen to sermons anyway lah, to make sure that their sheep and their growth groups are taken care of as well.
So of course it’s a lot of work. I would say that on the editing side, usually the amount of time you would need for an edit is double the length of a full gathering. So say if a full gathering is about three hours, an editor would need about say, six hours at minimum to be able to edit and put all the content together. So there have been weeks where we have gone for a lot longer, I’m sure you would know that as well, and it’s been quite a toll. But I guess what’s been good also is we’ve been slowly training different people to be able to come on board to assist and support as well— at least for me. For example, I was pretty much the main editor for the first two months. So every Saturday night to Sunday morning it was just me sitting, editing, working through the content, and making sure everything is OK. But thankfully, thanks to God’s provision, now we have other editors who are capable of doing the same work as well. We are now able to work on a weekly rotation, so we have different guys on duty every week, and we’re able to spread the load a little bit.
What’s one fact about the department you think everyone should know but they don’t?
Wow, I don’t know. I guess we’re not all merely about technical skills. Well we are about technical skills, but it’s so much more than that.
It’s about the willingness to serve.
I mean what it really takes to serve in a department is not just having the brains for it. Because in a church environment, it’s so much more than that. It’s really about thinking about how our work really supports the Word. People might think we’re just video editors, “oh they’re just the guys that make sure the mics are working, making sure that everything’s up on the Internet”, but actually it’s quite more than that. It’s actually really a group of people who are dedicated to loving this church, and wanting to serve Jesus, and they really give up all their lives to do that. So I think what people might not know is that yeah, the team really does have a big heart in making sure that the Word is being preached, that it is going up online, so that people might be encouraged and edified through the preaching of the word, so that God’s church might be strengthened and continue to grow even in the midst of a pandemic.
What would you say is the most memorable moment since you started serving in this department, if any?
Haha hmmm… I think the weekly Sunday gatherings would definitely be one of them. Meals would definitely be one of them. Our weekly Monday meetings at one point was also one of them.
So this is for pre-MCO Sundays. What happens a lot of the time as a team is that we are usually prepped for everything. But one thing that is very hard for us to prepare for is the preachers. So every Sunday we are literally in a bit of a panic mode. And this panic mode is not just me, I think it’s the whole team. I think as an entire team, we just learn to do the best we can. A lot of times, the time difference between a preacher coming into the building and going on stage is just 5 minutes. So the panic of just making sure that their hair is ok, that their shirt is folded right, their mics are set up properly, that there’s sound, no technical issues, that we have water and lozenges prepared for the preacher, making sure that the plug points are working… Those are memorable moments in their own ways.
But I would say one good memory would mostly be just us going out as a team after a long day at church, and just being able to sit down, interact with each other, and realising that we are so much more than just TSS I guess. We’re actually a church, we’re actually a bunch of people that all have our different struggles with sin, but all really wanting to dedicate our lives to the service of God’s church.
Just one last question before we wrap up: what would you say is the vision or the mission of this department, if there is any?
Like what I said earlier, I think vision and mission-wise, we exist to support the work of the Word. Everything we do as TSS is ultimately about being able to support the church in their quality. It’s not just equipment or software or hardware…it’s not just recordings…
We want to provide the church with good quality avenues to be able to listen to God’s Word, to be able to experience church with one another, and to grow through the work of the Word.
As I was saying earlier, when we put up our slides, people are able to keep up with the sermons, see the references that they need to follow, and then people can use some of these things to go study, learn, and reflect further. PA is important. Without your mics, without your speaker, the only people that would be able to listen to your preachers on a Sunday would be the people seated in the front row. Without lights, well what are you going to see as well, right? I think all of the departments, at least under the Technical Services Department, and RMS as well, the recording guys, really exist to do that.
And we’re more than happy to always be the guys behind the scenes, without necessarily getting noticed.
Because that would mean that all your attention is on the word of God being preached – that’s what really matters, and that’s why we do what we do.