This morning I really wanted to kick a computer. Doesn’t matter if it was the computer that was malfunctioning or not, I just wanted to kick one.
You won’t have work with technology long before something, somewhere will fail. And it’s always at the most inopportune time. At church, you arrive to find a power surge has blown an amp, or the computer you use for lyrics won’t power on. Maybe someone let the magic smoke out of that video scaler. (You know, the magic puff of acrid smoke that lets everyone nearby know that this piece of gear won’t be turning on any time soon.)
This morning we were launching a major project, one I have personally been invested in for months. It’s awesome, you should check it out, get involved: #wearewitnesses First service went off without a hiccup. So far so good. That means that the video venues also get their video feeds without issues.
Near as I can tell, sometime in the 2nd service (maybe multiple times?) something spiked through our network, and caused some disruptions. Now, I’m not an IT guy. I can make my home network function, and get most computers online, but when it gets much beyond that I’m done. Don’t ask me to spoof a MAC address or explain the numbers in an IP address. I just don’t know how it works. But about 30 seconds before the key video piece was to roll in the 2nd service our ProPresenter machine lost it’s link to Planning Center Online.
Linking Planning Center Online and ProPresenter saves tons of time. And most weeks isn’t an issue. But this particular Sunday, the presentation software locked up, and when restarted, it wouldn’t let us access anything past the song portion of the service. Restart the program, reboot the machine, nothing mattered. Later we couldn’t even re-link the entire service. The final solution was to rebuild a new playlist that wasn’t linked to PCO for the last service. But in that moment…
That moment when the lights go dark and the video doesn’t roll, and then the pastor gets up and apologizes for technical failure that no one could have prevented… You just want to kick a computer. I finally just grabbed the sermon notes and the video for playback and threw them into a part of the ProPresenter playlist we could access. That got us through the service, and the video was shown, and the pastor was able to introduce the project.
So, breath deep, service over. Presentation rebuilt and fixed. Network issue bypassed.
Except our main projectors are also on the network. It’s how you power them off and on, and tweak settings. Whatever was happening in the network wasn’t done yet. And in the first couple of songs of the last service the projectors kept shutting down. Our lighting technician had the brilliant thought to rip the network cables out of the machines, and then they both stayed on and passed signal. So two major issues in two separate services. Both probably caused by the same network issue, whatever that might have been.
It’s just a horrible feeling knowing that gear you are trying to operate is causing disruptions in worship. I’ve seen videos that look like Max Headroom recorded them playback in service. (That’s telling my age) Had audio fail to start with video playback more times than I can remember. Had lights burn out, projectors bulbs go out right before services. Had what sounded like thunder go off through a sound system when a DSP died right in the middle of a sermon. These weren’t operator errors, just machine malfunctions.
Here’s the bottom line: In every situation- God was praised, the word was preached, and people’s lives were changed.
God doesn’t need fancy tech stuff to speak to his people. Yes, we use it to enhance and communicate, but technology isn’t required for church. It’s so frustrating when tech fails, but I try (am still trying today) to rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than that, and he speaks in spite of any issues. And then I try to figure out how to prevent that failure from every happening again.