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Using audiovisual media for training for ministry

10 October 2011

Thirty years ago today I used videotape for the first time in training for ministry. No camcorders back then, just a big fat camera on a tripod connected to a recorder, which had to be plugged into the mains. The recorder used the superior Betamax format video cassettes, which were later ousted by the inferior VHS ones.

This is what I wrote in my diary, Saturday 10 October 1981

I returned to KwaNzimela after tea, and Mike Kruger had arrived and brought up his videotape recorder and camera, so we had a recording session in the chapel, of leading worship, and I read out part of the bishop’s charge to synod, about the lack of participation in worship, and said that if the leaders did not know what they were doing then the congregation would be even less likely to participate. After supper we looked at the recordings in the dining room and discussed them, and then Mike had a tape he had made of a Campus Crusade for Christ film on “The role of the pastor”, which had some good material in it.

The scene was the KwaNzimela conference centre of the Anglican diocese of Zululand, where we had about 20 people who came one weekend a month for training as self-supporting priests and deacons. One of the most important roles of priests and deacons was as worship leaders, and that meant that they should be leading worship, not worshipping vicariously on behalf of the congregation. Watching the videotape enabled them to see what they had done, or failed to do, which made the comments of their fellow students more useful.

Mike Kruger was one of the trainees, who ran an electronics shop in Empangeni, about 70 km away. The following year Sony brought out the first portable video recorder, which was about the size and weight of two substantial laptop computers together, and the Diocese of Zululand bought one, and a camera to go with it. The camera was still connected to the recorder by a fat cord.

We used it to film the self-supporting priests and deacons ministering in their home parishes, showing the variety of conditions in which they ministered. But they could only be shown to small audiences on a normal TV screen. Video projectors had separate red, green and blue projectors, and were hideously expensive.

Technology has come a long way since then, sometimes with bizarre results. I suspect that for some Christians today the audiovisual technology is not a means of training people to lead worship, but an essential part of leading worship, so that worship without the technological gadgetry would be quite unthinkable.

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