The Leadership Team has authorized a special technology fundraiser aimed at improving and expanding the technology we use. This authorization stems from a firm conviction that regardless of however COVID 19 runs its course, our future as a church requires a vigorous embrace of new ways to be together as a congregation, new ways that rely on increased use of the internet and associated technologies.
The technology fundraiser will allow members who share this vision to help make it happen sooner by making a special contribution beyond their annual pledge.
What we’ve done and a look ahead
In the past two years as we’ve turned to video and computer technologies to keep our congregation connected, challenges have emerged. That’s not surprising as we’ve gone through a time when some members are ready to test the pandemic waters in person while others are more cautious. We are committed to finding new ways of shared congregational engagement that welcomes both those present in the church and those who prefer to remain at home – in other words, hybrid worship and events.
As a first step toward this goal, we have installed special equipment in the Alfred Swan Room to enable hybrid Zoom meetings; this has been put to successful use for Java and Jesus and a Leadership Team meeting.
Our next step is to support larger hybrid gatherings in Friendship Hall. This document lays out our needs and plans; we hope it answers some of the questions you may have. Feel free to follow up with John Lemke ([email protected]) if you have questions or concerns.
Hybrid events in Friendship Hall
What do we mean when we talk about doing hybrid education sessions and discussions in Friendship Hall? Here are some attributes we can hope for:
- An event shared by people present in the hall with others connected via Zoom
- For those present in person, a large screen display of the Zoom meeting showing remote participants
- For those not attending in person, a regular Zoom experience with one or more views of those present in person
- In Friendship Hall, the ability to hold the event without dimming the lights; this will allow in-room participants to see each other easily and have normal interactions
- A reliable hardware set up that can simply be turned on at need and trusted to work
- A set up that can remain in place indefinitely because it does not interfere with other uses of the room.
Why the current set up is inadequate
In the spring, we purchased a laptop, a camera, and a sound card for the laptop to support hybrid social justice education sessions in Friendship Hall – but we were stopped when our projectors turned out to be seriously inadequate. After several events held at 9:00 AM on Sundays this spring, we identified these problems in our current configuration:
- The projectors we own are nearly two decades old, noisy, and outmoded. Without using clumsy and sometimes flaky special adaptors, they do not support current best practice ways of connecting a computer to a projector.
- The projectors do not support current display aspect ratios, meaning the displayed image is distorted and squashed horizontally so it is not a good reproduction of what appears on the source laptop’s screen.
- The displayed image is woefully dim, typically requiring that the room lights be turned off and the shades dropped, making Friendship Hall ill-suited to interactions among those in the room.
A planned remedy
We will purchase a new Epson EB-PU1008w projector at a cost of $9900 and mount it to the ceiling of Friendship Hall (estimated mounting cost is no more than $2000). Points to note are:
- This is a laser projector that’s roughly three times brighter than the projectors we use in Worship Hall
- It’s a model intended for “larger venues” like Friendship Hall, not home theater installations in a family room
- Given its target use in larger venues, it is appropriate for ceiling mounting – cables will simply connect to nearby wall plates
- As a laser projector, it’s quiet, requires low maintenance, and promises a long lifetime; the laser itself has an expected lifetime of 30,000 hours, which translates to more than twenty years even if the projector were run four hours a day.
- It’s a current model that supports modern interconnection methods and aspect ratios
- It’s available from local vendor Full Compass Systems, with which we already have a good working relationship
- Its video resolution is appropriate to our needs without entailing the extra cost of 4K video resolution – that’s more appropriate for videophiles than it is for Power Point presentations.
What comes after installing a modern projector?
Purchasing and installing this projector will be a significant step forward, for it will allow us to deploy the camera and sound card we already own but haven’t been able to use yet. At that point, we’ll be able to assess how well things work. We may conclude no further steps are needed, or we may conclude more and more sophisticated cameras would be useful. If additional improvements are desirable, we do not anticipate them to be either expensive or difficult. The bottom line is that we’re just going to have to try it for a few months and see if we like it.
How can I help?
Simple! Decide how much you’d like to contribute and get a check to Julie, our office manager. Please put Tech fundraiser in the memo line. If you’d prefer to pay online, click on the button below and use the Tech Fundraiser row to specify your contribution.