Blackhawk Presbytery goes live

Meeting to be broadcast on radio, includes Skype c

September 4, 2009

LOUISVILLE

Presbytery meetings are familiar to many Presbyterians. What might not be so common is broadcasting them live on the radio.

Add to that a real-time participation with a community in Kenya via Skype, and the meeting doesn’t seem so normal anymore.

That’s the plan for northern Illinois’ Blackhawk Presbytery, which will hold its Sept. 8 presbytery meeting as a “Celebration of Mission.” A worship service that will combine scripture, liturgy, music and storytelling, the Celebration of Mission has been a theme for the presbytery before, helping unite members by lifting up good work.

“There are times in which our meetings are spent working really hard at trying to get along,” said the Rev. Karen Herbst-Kim, associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in DeKalb, Ill.  Having hard conversations is necessary, but can be draining, she said.

“Mission is something that we can celebrate together,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the theological spectrum you come from, you can celebrate” and “enjoy being God’s people together.”

Although the theme isn’t new, the live broadcast of the meeting is.

For four years, Third Presbyterian Church in Rockford, Ill., has been on the air with its own low-power radio station, WTPB-LP.

The church applied for a special low-power license from Congress, said the Rev. Murray Hanson, pastor of Third Presbyterian. The radio station is on the air 24/7, broadcasting Christian shows and easy listening music. Its goal is to proclaim the gospel while reaching out to offer entertainment and companionship to the community.

“We’re trying to draw someone in from being a listener to coming to the church family,” Hanson said.

The station is run by volunteers from the congregation and is funded with help from the presbytery, donations and underwriters.

Although the radio station is in Rockford, the meeting will be held at Waltham Presbyterian Church in Utica, Ill., about 70 miles south. The radio station will plug into the telephone line and PA system at Waltham.

Broadcasting a presbytery meeting will be a first for the station, and Hanson said he’s excited for people to see that there are new ways to carry out familiar concepts.

In addition to the novelty of a live broadcast, the presbytery is hoping to add another new element: being joined with its Kenyan partners in real time via Skype.

The Rev. Brenda Harcourt is a mission co-worker serving as a leadership trainer with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kenya. If the technology works out, Harcourt and others from the Imenti North, South and Central Presbyteries will join in communion with those at Waltham.

Participants in the worship service will tell stories of mission and ministry, from a campus ministry program to an annual presbytery-wide trip to New Orleans.

As a planner, Herbst-Kim said she’s eager to see if the technology will cooperate. As a participant, she’s looking forward to powerful storytelling and connections.

“I have never celebrated worship with a community in another place, let alone in another country,” she said.

Listen live: Celebration of Mission, Blackhawk Presbytery; Sept. 8, 2009; 10 a.m.-noon (CST); WTPB-LP, 99.3 FM or online.

           

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