Being an e-safe congregation this Advent and Christmas

Being an e-safe congregation this Advent and Christmas

As 2020 draws to a close many are breathing a sigh of relief that COVID 19 restrictions are easing. For many there is great excitement that people are returning to face-to-face worship with masked singers praising God.

The season of Advent and Christmas is a time where greater participation of families and children brings great joy.  My local congregation rejoices to see the excitement of the small child lighting the candles in the Advent wreath. On occasions a child is invited to sing a carol for the congregation. These are indeed precious and special moments during our worship services.

This festive season is different from previous years, we are all excited about being together and many are now sharing worship through a live stream to a church or social media platform.

For the person directing or producing the stream there are a few more aspects to consider.

On the first Sunday of Advent I was caught out when it came to the lighting of the candles by a small child who just loved being on camera. Everyone was happy to see this five year old not only lighting the candles but then taking centre stage providing a spontaneous liturgical dance.

It was only after reflecting on the service that I realised we had sent significant footage and images of Mr Five out to the world through our Facebook page and thus making him more vulnerable.

I hear you asking “How is Mr Five more vulnerable?”

Mr Five is vulnerable in the following ways:

  • his image accessible for placement on less desirable web sites that prey on children.
  • him open to strangers who praise Mr 5’s dancing who may have hidden intentions to harm Mr 5

The E-safety Commissioner and the Uniting Church National Safe Church Unit both strongly recommend that images of children should not be livestreamed.

As the live stream director for my local congregation and as a member of the Synod Safe Church Unit  I offer the following tips to help your congregation be e-safe when streaming and keep our children safe;

  • set the camera shots as a close up on the Advent candles and the hands lighting but not on the child so they are not easily identified by strangers.
  • The singing child focus rather on a different scene in the church, depending on what you have, it may be
    • The candles or
    • A nativity scene or
    • a stained-glass window or
    • even a photo or photos to accompany the song

I enjoy the inclusion of children and families in the worship as much as anyone whilst also being mindful of keeping them safe in the online space.

Being an e-safe congregation, this Advent and Christmas is as easy as thinking of through in advance how to manage the camera shots when children are participating up front.

Rev. Tara Curlewis

Livestream Director Galston Uniting Church, Synod Safe Church Unit.

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