Northfield pastor shares 15 tips for holding outdoor worship services

  • A family takes part in an outdoor worship service conducted by Bob Emberley, pastor of the Community Bible Church, at 24 Main St., Northfield. Contributed photo

  • Worshippers sit on chairs or on blankets at the Community Bible Church outdoor service at 24 Main St., Northfield. Contributed Photo

  • People sit on lawn chairs or blankets for the outdoor worship service of Community Bible Church in Northfield. Contributed photo

For The Recorder
Published: 7/4/2020 10:58:56 AM

NORTHFIELD — Here are a few things we have done and have learned in the course of conducting outdoor worship services at 24 Main St. So far (six weeks in), the weather has cooperated with no rain during services, although this Sunday looks like we might have a passing thunderstorm. Which is good, because we need the rain.

(1) We have a big tent that we set up. It is owned by a friend of mine in New Hampshire, who lets us borrow it at no cost, so that is good. Renting a big tent can be expensive.

(2) We also use a couple of smaller canopy tents for added shade and cover over the sound equipment and where those leading the service stand.

(3) One Sunday, there was enough wind to lift that tent up, but I was quick and sure-handed enough to grab the pole and pull it down. Made for a nice comic relief in the middle of the sermon. All that to say, you need to be sure to use the tent pegs for the canopy tents.

(4) We keep the service right at 30 minutes. That includes everything — welcome, prayers, Scripture readings, sermon, everything. That way, everyone knows what to expect and it is helpful for those with children or those who do not care to use the porto-toilet.

(5) We have a porto-toilet on site.

(6) We have about 10 lawn chairs for people to use who do not bring their own, but we ask people to bring their own, like if they were attending an outdoor concert or soccer game.

(7) Some set up blankets and we have coloring packets for the kids.

(8) People have the option of social distancing on the lawn or under the tent or they can stay in their cars to hear the service over the radio transmitter (more on that later).

(9) The first two weeks we only used the radio option, but when the state commonwealth guidelines allowed for outdoor gatherings, we set up the tent.

(10) Each week, we have about five cars listening in and then the rest spread out on the lawn. We are a small group (fewer than 40).

(11) I record (audio) the service and send out a link to the entire church family so anyone who was unable to attend can listen.

(12) In terms of equipment, I purchased an AM transmitter (the reason for AM is that all the FM transmitters were backordered). The transmitter is a pretty simple setup — if I can figure it out, anyone can! For a music prelude, we lean the mic down close to my iPad and we play songs from a playlist as people gather. That goes out through the speaker to those on the lawn. Then I have the transmitter connected to an mic app on my phone (found on Google Play). So the audio goes from the speaker into the mic app on my phone, which is attached to the AM transmitter that sends the signal to the cars. When it is time for someone to speak, we just tilt the mic back up in front of the person speaking.

(13) I print out the song lyrics and hand them out for those that are comfortable taking one. Anyone handing stuff out, etc., wears a mask.

(14) My wife leads the singing. We sing a cappella, unless my son is there and then we use a guitar. Wendy sings into the mic and the people join in.

(15) We encourage people to be aware of social distancing and to be sensitive to others’ boundaries in terms of masks. Basically, keep your distance from those you did not travel to the service with and if you are comfortable interacting with others, do so using appropriate boundaries.

Our plan is to continue to hold outdoor services throughout the pandemic, as we have a good location for it and it is working out for us.

Bob Emberley is the pastor of the Community Bible Church in Northfield.

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