When the Rev. Barry Ensign-George, associate for Theology in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) office of Theology and Worship, first heard about Periscope, the live streaming video mobile app bought by Twitter in February 2015, a light bulb went off in his head.
Or maybe it was on his iPhone.
“In the office of Theology and Worship, we’ve been intrigued by Periscope, a tool for live broadcast, because live broadcast has immediacy,” says Ensign-George, “and it offers some two-way communication.”
In consultation with his colleagues, Ensign-George determined that Periscope, a live broadcasting app that can be accessed by downloading the app on a mobile device or by clicking on a prescribed link at specified times from a user’s computer, seemed especially fitting for an Advent trial run.
“The Advent ‘scopes’ [as broadcasts on Periscope are called] are a way to explore this new tool to see how it might be helpful for ministry,” he says, “our ministry and the ministries of congregational leaders whom we serve.”
Presbyterians—and others interested in worshiping virtually in real time—were invited via the PC(USA) website, Twitter, and Facebook to tune in to the PC(USA)’S Periscope channel on Nov. 30 at 1:00 p.m. EST for the office of Theology and Worship’s first Advent devotionals.
The devotional broadcasts, which run approximately 15 minutes in length, will continue throughout the Advent season on Mondays, Dec. 7, Dec. 14, and Dec. 21, at 1:00 p.m. EST. Worship leadership will rotate among the staff of the Theology, Formation, and Evangelism ministry area. Each weekly Advent devotional will then remain online on a dedicated PC(USA) webpage for those who are unable to join the live broadcasts or for anyone who may wish to view the devotionals at a later time.
One of the unique features of Periscope is that participants can also “like” what they see by sending animated hearts across the screen and by submitting comments, which can be viewed by everyone watching.
During the Nov. 30 broadcast, many of the comments received by the two worship leaders, Ensign-George and the Rev. Karen Russell, program manager for the Company of New Pastors, were prayer requests.
“I don't know if you noticed, but prayer requests were still coming in when you finished,” wrote one participant afterwards to Ensign-George. “To me, that indicates a need or desire to pray in (virtual) community.”
Ensign-George was encouraged by the energy and engagement of the office’s first venture with this new platform.
“We hope that followers of these scopes will find them to be a moment of grounding worship in the midst of the tasks and distractions that so easily fill the season,” he says.
In the meantime, the office of Theology and Worship will continue in its efforts to reach new and ever broader audiences through social media by using Twitter as a platform to engage Presbyterians on its latest series of published papers, “Theological Conversations.”
The next Twitter chat—the ministry area’s fourth such conversation—has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 4:00 p.m. EST. The chat, to be hosted by the Rev. Dr. Kevin Park, associate dean for Advanced Professional Studies and assistant professor of Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, will engage Twitter users on Park’s new paper—also well timed for Advent study and reflection—“The Nations Will Bring Their Glory.” Twitter subscribers are invited to use the hashtag #TheoConvo to join the conversation.