Parish Spotlight - A Family Endeavor: The Family Team Behind Virtual Worship at All Saints Franklin
By: Virginia Taylor, Communications Officer, Diocese of WNC
Jonathan Stepp admitted that one of the first things that crossed his mind when coronavirus made its way to western North Carolina was how he would keep his church community connected. As the rector of a small parish located in Franklin, NC, church events are a vital part of life in the small mountain town.
“The Church is important to these folks, and now they’ve lost those physical relationships,” Stepp said. “But not only have they lost church, they’ve also lost rotary, pickleball, quilting, everything they do in relationship with other people is just gone right now.”
More than anything, Stepp was concerned with how to respond to the loss of relationships many members of his community would feel as social distancing orders were put into place. With his church community composed of many older members, he wanted to make sure virtual worship was still easily accessible to all church members.
“It’s been the older people who are isolated so much that we’ve been really mindful of,” Stepp said. “I’ve got parishioners who’ve only been out of their house 2-3 times in the last 4 weeks.”
With this in mind, Stepp decided to create virtual worship videos on Youtube for his congregation. However, he wanted them to foster a sense of community, to be participatory for those stuck at home. With minimal video editing knowledge himself, he soon got his two children on board.
“My son Lewis has had a Youtube channel for a couple of years. He has a lot of experience with video editing and helped walk me through Youtube, the ins and out. My daughter Emily is graduating from UNC Asheville in two weeks as an English major, but she minored in Mass Communications so she’s had classes in filmmaking, editing, and sound design.” Stepp smiled broadly when speaking of his kids. “They’ve been the heart and soul of this thing.”
Before long, the entire family was participating in making virtual worship videos for All Saints. Whether it be participating in the worship service, capturing video, or editing it all together, creating beautiful and creative worship videos for the congregation soon became a family activity.
“When Lewis and I did the chant to go into the church for the Easter vigil, my wife was off camera holding the mic because we didn’t have a boom!” Stepp laughed. “My parishioners now understand that this is a family endeavor, so we’re getting comments like ‘Thank you Stepp family!’ on Facebook. They know we’re all involved and it’s just a really cool family thing.”
The result of the family project has been astounding. All Saints now produces two worship videos a week, utilizing beautiful imagery from around the parish, music from churches and musicians around the world, and easy-to-read on-screen texts to make participation as easy as possible.
“It has truly fostered a sense of spiritual connection to God and one another,” Stepp said. “We’ve even had some older people who have never done anything like commenting on Youtube or Facebook learning to do those things as a way to connect.”
When speaking of what he is most proud of, Stepp shared that while he is proud of the worship videos, he is most proud of the work his family has done to create them.
“If I had done them by myself I would be reluctant to brag about them, but I’ve given myself permission to brag since I’m bragging about my kids. The sense of pride that I have about this, is that even though we’re a small church thanks to them our parishioners feel like they’re watching something professional.” Stepp said. “I never want to by unmindful of people who are suffering, but I feel very fortunate to have this time with my family doing really creative things together and producing something that’s been a blessing and a real help to the people of our parish.”
To see All Saints Franklin's online worship videos, click here to visit their Youtube channel.