When you think of live streaming video, Sunday church service may not necessarily be the first thing that comes to mind. More mainstream uses include the live broadcast of rubber bands being wrapped around a watermelon until it explodes, but you may be surprised to learn that religious services are one of the fastest growing institutions adapting to live video. Pew Research Center has found that one in five people in the country are already using the internet for observing and sharing faith-related content. What does this imply for churches, mosques, temples, and the like? Can live streaming be utilized for spiritual purposes?
In short, yes!
Many religious institutions are benefiting from the changing tides by taking advantage of the live streaming technology now available to them as a new method of reaching out to those who are otherwise unreachable. This is the most easily identifiable benefit: by going online, your message can reach millions of people and potential followers, no matter where in the world they are or what size your house of faith is. This ease of access also applies to followers who are simply unable to attend services, such as regular churchgoers who are away or the sick and elderly.
With a good video streaming service, there is usually the option to record your live content. This allows you to make your services or ceremonies available for viewing at any time as an on-demand video in addition to the option to rebroadcast or create DVDs. In doing so, this generates interest and opens the door for new members of the community to watch services online and get a feel for your institution on their own time without any stigmas attached.
Dedicated streaming services can aid in strengthening your relationship with your existing followers by allowing them to feel more connected to the larger community and in turn, to their faith. It can also make it easier for them to give back. Although you might usually do it during a service, fundraising for charity and bringing in donations for your place of worship online is simple with a paywall. In essence, live streaming services for religious institutions can pay off. Services such as Primcast understand that most houses of worship are relatively small in size and cannot afford a cable slot in the first place and consequently offer extremely affordable plans.
And then there is the advent of special events that are typically held in houses of worship. We’ve discussed weddings, but what about funerals? There’s ‘til death do us part—and then what? A growing number of family members and friends of the deceased have participated in the live streaming of funeral proceedings. Relatives who can’t be there in person to mourn—or celebrate life, as one might look at it—can grieve from afar, while still (in a way) being a part of the ceremony. Call it a deadly compromise.
Imagine being able to access a funeral the way you’d access pay-per-view. Family and friends usually receive a password and are able to view the live stream from wherever they are. While this may seem impersonal, it’s beneficial to some in the same way live church services are—when they they simply cannot attend an important service due to distance or disability, but still want to participate. It is especially useful for those whose faiths require an immediate or quick burial, such as the Jewish or Muslim.
A New Zealand-based service called One Room started providing funeral live streaming services in 2012. Today, they claim to stream over 1000 funerals a year, with 25,000 people having watched funeral streams across 68 countries. As with a lot of developments in tech, there are major criticisms on the implications of these developments on greater society and culture. Some worry that the ability to live stream such services will make even those who are able to physically attend, skip out. But streaming technology was not necessarily developed to be a replacement for real life experiences. we must remember that nothing can replace giving a speech at your best friend’s wedding or being able to properly say goodbye to a loved one.