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With the help of contractors, staff and volunteers, the month of August has ushered in major technological upgrades at Stone UMC. Behind the scenes (literally), thousands of feet of computer networking (ethernet) cables have been run throughout the entire building, a process taking about two-and-a-half weeks. All of these cables and the special hardware connecting them together provide a strong backbone that allows many types of devices (more on that below) to communicate with each other. Most importantly, it provides reliable internet access for everyone in the entire building, something we’ve never had before.  

Security Cameras Thanks to the generous donations of several Stone families, 16 high-definition digital security cameras have been installed in strategic locations inside and outside of the building. Each camera runs on a single ethernet cable. The cameras work in both light and dark and will record the digital footage to a centralized unit that can be monitored on site or off site via a secure connection over the internet. The cameras will not only help in the event of a security breach but may also help in premises liability cases should the need ever arise. Because these cameras use a standard ethernet cable for power and signal instead of a proprietary cable or cables, when the time comes to replace or upgrade the cameras, we will be able to use the existing cables.  

Sanctuary and broadcast upgrades In the Sanctuary, many additions have been made to improve our weekly broadcasts/streams on cable TV and online. The first upgrade was a digital soundboard which allows us to have finer control over the audio quality - particularly on our online stream. This soundboard also has the ability to be controlled remotely with an iPad, which is helpful during musical practice sessions so someone does not have to run up and down the stairs to the balcony to make adjustments. Related to the sound board is the addition of new microphones in the organ chamber. These microphones allow us to better capture the sound of the organ for our online and TV viewers.   The second upgrade was the addition of two high-definition robotically controlled video cameras in the Sanctuary. One camera is mounted on the pillar nearest the organ and the other on the balcony railing. These two new cameras replace the one analog camera on a tripod that Armstrong provided for our use for so many years. The two new cameras are controlled by one person using push-buttons in the sound booth in the balcony. The video, sound and any text or graphics are mixed with a computer in the sound booth and the final signal is streamed live online (our website and Facebook page) and to Armstrong cable on CTV-13 (channels 23 and 100). Sunday, August 23 was our first Sunday using these cameras - you probably noticed the improved picture quality and the addition of a new camera angle!   Four 60” flat-panel monitors make up the third upgrade to the Sanctuary. The first pair are mounted next to the speakers on the left and right sides in the front of the church and the next pair are mounted on the second row of pillars on the left and right sides. These monitors open up many possibilities including, but not limited to, the display of announcements, video close-ups, playback of pre-recorded media (like our virtual choir) and, when we start congregation singing again, hymn lyrics! Additionally, we will now be able to broadcast whatever is on the Sanctuary monitors to the existing lobby monitor.  

What’s next? These technological upgrades have moved Stone UMC to the cutting edge of technology. All of these upgrades had been discussed for many years, but COVID-19 really forced us to adapt or be left behind. We have worked very hard to ensure that there have not been any gaps in Sunday worship service since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Yes, there have been some glitches along the way, but we continue to strive to provide the highest quality broadcast/stream that we can. Further, with our building now being fully internet-connected, new possibilities are afoot, such as hybrid in-person/virtual meetings, bible studies, etc. Stay tuned! God has great things in store for the ministry of Stone UMC!

On behalf of the Communications and Technology Committee,  Tyson Johnston