Hopefully as you read this the Betsuin will have reopened. There will still be precautions and protocols to follow that will help keep everyone safe.
Over the past year and a half we have been taking steps to make the facilities of the temple safe and accessible. When the pandemic started we closed all access to the temple. Staff worked from home. Religious services were postponed. Like many others we thought that the pandemic would run its course in a few months at most. As the months passed and so many were dying we realized we needed to adjust to what was taking place around us.
We were using Zoom for Sunday services and as we became comfortable with the application we began expanding its use. There was a base of knowledge and experience to build on. With much trial and error we reduced complexities and clarified the process. We made many mistakes along the way. There were audio issues that included but not always related to the Zoom “original sound” option. Feedback and audio echoes related to YouTube. Muted audio and video dropouts that canceled Sunday morning service live streams. We would get welcomed calls to let us know when things were not going quite as planned. Presentations were like watching ducks on water; smooth and graceful on top, churning madly below the surface.
As soon as we were able to bring people on to the temple grounds a small technology support group began to form around the Sunday morning service live streams. There was a lot to figure out. How the Zoom meeting is started, iPads for camera control and monitor are started, music is turned on. Gatha is cued. Visuals are cued. Five minutes before service start YouTube goes live. It all became pretty impressive and smooth. When the service is completed there’s a sigh of relief and everything is turned off. Except the laptop which must not be turned off or bad things will happen. There’s still some mystery in the process.
There are often more YouTube views of the service than there were people in the Hondo pre- pandemic. Sometimes it may be just comfortable to roll out of bed and turn on YouTube or watch it at a different time. As much as we miss being in the Hondo it may take some effort for some to come back to Sunday morning routines. We have been open Sunday mornings for anyone who would like to attend service in person. Online registration is requested so we can manage the number of people in the Hondo. We have not had to worry about too many people. We have had people who attended morning service for the first time. I think everyone is waiting for when the new school year starts. Then I’m sure there will be many people in the Hondo. At least that’s my hope.
I’ve become used to virtual meetings. I don’t miss having to drive to meetings. Sometimes its an hour drive one way. I know this is true for many who attend meetings. If the meeting is a BCA meeting some have to fly to attend in person meetings. I think we are weighing the benefits of in-person meetings. Perhaps a combination of virtual and in person meetings may be a good balance. I do miss the snacks and lunch when we meet in person. And of course seeing everyone.
How we decide to move forward with our temple activities will make everyone’s safety and well being the priority. Look forward to meeting everyone again.