Will Catholics Watch Streaming Video?

Web cams have changed the way we communicate – phone conferences at work have evolved into video conferences, and grandparents can talk to their grandchildren in real-time, rather than anxiously awaiting photos in the mail. Now video streaming technology allows us to view places and events we are unable to travel to in the comfort of our own home. So will web cams change the way we worship?

There are a lot of video streaming services in the market like USTREAM or Live Stream, but they geared more towards entertainment than for church use. Lyle Stoflet, President of FrontChurchPew.com which IS targeted towards churches, has this to say about church streaming technology:

How can streaming technology help a church’s outreach? The challenge of every church is to reach out to the community, to make the church accessible to the masses. God’s Word should be sent out far and wide. Today’s technology is designed to do just that.

With today’s streaming technology there is no need for expensive broadcast booths or pricey equipment, all you need is a computer and a camera and you can share God’s message with the world quickly and affordably. Many church members may experience sickness, weather, travel or other circumstances that prevent them from attending services.  Live webcasting keeps them connected and able to participate from their home, office, business, or hotel room. They can use their computer, iPhone, iPad or other device to watch.  Plus, you can reach potential church members who are searching online for a new church community or home.

I think services like this are going to be huge for a lot of Christian denominations. But I’m hesitant to believe the average parish will stream live video – watching Mass in your living room, without the Eucharist, isn’t really attending Mass. But for the sick or the home-bound this could be beneficial, and there are other great websites out there like CatholicTV or EWTN Television that stream daily Mass and other Catholic programming.

In some instances, streaming video could be a great way to share the Gospel online, and I think we’ll be seeing more and more churches use this technology in the years to come.

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Author:Clare Zajicek

Clare Zajicek is a Catholic wife, mom, and Marketing professional working in the Milwaukee area.
  • PeterAndPaulMinistries

    I think streaming video would be most helpful for catechetical sessions and speakers at the parish. We live streamed a few catechetical sessions done by a priest at my parish on UStream and people loved it! Especially since it was a cold and snowy time of year. 

    • Clare Zajicek

      That’s a really good idea. That reminds me, I’ve wondered before if Cardinal Dolan will start live streaming his homilies or messages on http://blog.archny.org/. I think he would get quite an audience.

  • http://prodeocommunications.com/ Kevin

    A few years ago my Archdiocese was promoting “The Great Adventure” Bible study and some 80 parishes were offering the program at the parish level. At the end of the first year of the program, we invited nearly a hundred parish coordinators form all over the diocese to a large room in a single parish, where I set up a and delivered a large-screen Skype call with Jeff Cavins. Jeff gave an hour-long instructional talk to these parish coordinators, even able to see them as he was speaking, then afterward answered the attendees’ questions. I have also designed a server that would automatically stream and record homilies, but found the idea isn’t welcomed for a number of reasons, including sad but practical ones like “it will get stolen”. My parish priest at the time explained to me, it’s not the people who are in the pews each week that we need to reach – it’s the ones who AREN’T there each week. I’m a Catholic filmmaker ( prodeocommunications dot com ) and I spoke to quite a few experienced priests and others about this idea, and my conclusion, sadly, is that it’s just pretending to imagine that people who have a choice between a locked-off webcam image of a parish homily with whatever audio happens, and anything else produced that the internet offers; is going to choose the homily instead of the _____. Such a utilitarian approach as slapping up a webcam somewhere and “lettin’ er rip” with the encoder and stream server may appeal to the parish council’s bookkeeper, but I don’t believe it can be effective. Tune any television set to a prime time network broadcast and compare and contrast with output of said webcam for illustrative explanation. The elephant in the room is that people have specific expectations of television. If what they see falls short of those expectations, they have to be very highly motivated to start tuned. I spent years in a major university Faculty of Education project studying what was then called interactive media (especially including broadcast media). This has influenced my philosophy of evangelizing extensively. From a good friend –a convert to the Catholic faith– whom I call a “genetically engineered Baptist preacher” because of his family background, I have learned that the ‘secret weapon’ of Catholicism is her physical beauty. There is simply no comparison between the beauty of a tastefully, lovingly executed traditionally styled Catholic parish church and the most expensive and well equipped big-box or storefront protestant community’s worship facility. The historical reality is that the iconoclasts saw to it that unrestrained authentic beauty in the service of illuminating the face of Christ and his sacraments was effectively disqualified from non-Catholic Christianity. That beauty turns out to be the thin edge of a wedge that cannot fail to split the protestant refusal of all of Christ’s reality from the Catholic welcome of the whole Christ including the consequent beauty of our Churches as a reflection, ultimately, of the beatific vision itself. Our future as Catholic media evangelizers is not in feeding form webcams, it’s in crafting as for cinema — and of the kind that puts the liveliest art in the service of the Church, instead of bending over backward to pretend it isn’t. Upon further research of my sad conclusion, I found that “Inter Mirifica” clearly stated in 1963(?) that films and television broadcasts, particularly those of a service to the Church and the Gospels must be of the highest calibre in all respects. I feel this qualification befits the subject well as it does other mediums which in a sense contain Christ, such as sacred vessels which are to be made from the noblest of materials as we read in “Redemptionis Sacramentum”. A webcam doesn’t show Holy Mother Church’s beautiful face at her finest. That’s my conclusion for what it’s worth.

    • Clare Zajicek

      That’s a great point – and one I tend to lean towards myself. In some cases live streaming a Mass or speaker does cheapen it. The viewers watching their screens are not actively a part of the community – they are not celebrating the Eucharist – and it is not a sacred act. 

      At the same time, if viewers watch a speaker at the church or Missionaries live streaming from another country and they think, “wow, this is something I want to be a part of,” then video streaming is indeed proclaiming the Gospel online. 

      I guess my opinion is that it’s only counter-productive if it’s keeping people away from the sacraments, rather than drawing them to the sacraments.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sranne Sister Anne Flanagan

      Lovely and helpful insights, Kevin. Thanks.

  • Brad West

    We have been exploring live streams of Masses. We are a community where we have many part-time residents but they are very attached to our parish and want to stay connected even from thousands of miles away. Likewise, we are hoping to bring the Church to are homebound brothers and sisters. I think in terms of successful adoption, like anything there has to be good promotion and marketing. Too often we just put these things out there and hope people jump on board.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.ater Sean I. Ater

    Thank you for this great post Clare! I have a few thoughts about livestreaming Mass based on our experience in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Many of our parishes use a service called ChurchCast to livestream Mass http://churchcastonline.com/. We even make these available on our Archdiocese of Cincinnati “Being Catholic” App http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/being-catholic/being-catholic-app/. I would argue that livestreaming Mass is a really good idea for a few reasons:
    1. Many active Catholics use this technology to go back and listen to the homily that they heard on Sunday, or the parish has multiple homilists and they like to hear another perspective on the Gospel for that week. In effect they use it to continue to break open the Word throughout the week.
    2. It can actually help keep reverence during Mass – especially for Weddings and First Communions, and Confirmations. Parishes with this technology can tell people not to bring cameras or video recorders. They can record the entire Mass and make it available to download afterward.
    3. It can be very hospitable. This technology is used a lot by absent loved ones. Many times people who cannot make a wedding, funeral, Baptism, First Communion, or Confirmation, can watch it livestreamed from afar. We have heard stories of soldiers who tune in for Mass each week so they can feel connected to thier community (they still make it to the real Mass!). We have even heard stories of soldiers who have watched the Baptism of thier own children livestreamed.
    4. It is evangelistic. Many people who would not think about darkening the door of a Catholic Church, could be introduced to the beauty of teh Catholic Mass through this technology. Many fallen away Catholics could be re-introduced to the Mass through this technology. I agree that this can NEVER replace the real Liturgy for practicing Catholics, but this could be a way to plant seeds in people who we could not reach in another way.
    Just a few thoughts based on our experience – thanks for bringing up the topic!

  • Tom L.

    I’ve had great success in streaming Eucharistic Adoration with live worship music. We just set the camera on Jesus and allow those who can’t make it out to adoration (for whatever reason) to join us in prayer when they get the chance. It’s also a great opportunity to record what goes on to expose new comers to what Adoration is like at our parish.

  • http://www.churchservices.tv ChurchServices.TV

    First of all brilliant website about all this Catholic and Technology – there is no equivalent in Ireland and the UK where we operate. Our streaming website (we have about 70 Churches) had five million hits over the past 12 months. Streaming is here and it is growing. We are at http://www.churchservices.tv