Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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27/12/15: only a part-time control freak

Very pleased to say that the Christmas Eve Carol Service at St Alban's Anglican Cathedral went very well, the choir worked hard in preparation with a number of other commitments over the same period, very grateful to many people for making this work and enabling the celebration to take place.  Bwana Yesu asifiwe - the Lord Jesus be praised!

In the end we decided not to print an order of service, and instead I put together this PowerPoint for the running of the service. As you can see, nothing is left to chance with very clear instructions (commands?) as to what to do: SIT / KNEEL / STAND / REMAIN SEATED etc.  I trust that the congregation found them helpful as they were guided through the service and didn't feel affronted at constantly being told what to do.  Nobody complained afterwards, but experience teaches me that this is not an absolute test of satisfaction....

Very pleased to be able to ask Tommy, working for Operation Mobilisation and staying with me until 25th January when the Logos Hope is due to arrive in Dar es Salaam harbour (see this blog post) to operate the PowerPoint for the service itself, as this meant I was able to go through the service with him, make sure he knew where the 'bidding prayer' was written out, and so on.  We arrived early to load up the PowerPoint and check that all screens were on.  And of course, when the moment came, everything happened seamlessly, with probably most people not engaging with the fact that a human being was responsible for going from one slide to the next.  But that's the nature of using PowerPoint - do it well and it goes unobtrusively into the background, which is where it needs to be.  Do it badly and things can go from bad to worse very quickly, with the flow of the service interrupted as the congregation are left not knowing what they're supposed to do.  When we were discussing this, Tommy suggested a parallel with changing the 20 litre containers for the water cooler, and I agree - do it well and it's not at all clear why there should ever be a problem, do it badly and you're on the phone to Noah asking if you can borrow his ark.  Another example in a church context is the operating of the microphones, which I did a little whilst Organist at Muswell Hill.  Basic principle - keep channels off unless they're being used, make sure you switch them on just before they're needed.  And please, please, PLEASE do all testing well before the service starts, not immediately beforehand or even during it.


Having seen PowerPoint operation - and also sound operation - done well and badly in churches across the world over the last few years, I have two suggestions to make.  The first is that experience teaches me that really good people to ask to do these jobs are teenagers.  Not necessarily of course, but often they enjoy the technical aspect of things, and they keep on top of what is going on which is exactly what is needed for both jobs.  Also, giving valued positions of responsibility to youngsters at an age when many are drifting away from church life makes a great deal of sense to me.

The second is to regard these jobs on a level with band leader / chief user (or sidesperson) this kind of thing.  This is particularly important in settings where the music is not exactly laid down in advance, with choices being made about going from verses to chorus to second chorus to bridging section in real time.  These decisions need to be communicated with all musicians, so make sure also they're communicated with the Powerpoint operator.  In other words, consider the PowerPoint operator as a member of the band, attending some of the rehearsals (probably not necessary to attend all of all of them).  PowerPoint operation and sound operation look straightforward, and when things are going well, they are.  But lose concentration, or if something unexpected happens, that's when things go wrong, causing disruption to the service.  I for one do not find it easy to worship if things are going wrong around me or if I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing.

St Francis of Assisi is credited with the maxim, "Do few things and do them well."  This seems to me to complement Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."  If sound operation or PowerPoint operation is what you do, do it for the Lord as one of the few things you do well - not as an additional something to large numbers of other things, not really getting your full attention which it is needed.

So, aware that my control freak tendencies came out a little at the end of last week, both in the way I put the PowerPoint together and also the rather heavy-handed briefing I gave Tommy (if you're reading this, Tommy, thank you, you were great!  And hope I wasn't too overbearing, sorry if I was.  And hope you enjoyed it).  I suppose the dividing line between good organisation, planning and administration on the one hand, and control freakery on the other, is a matter of judgement and wisdom, nothing is clear.  As 2015 draws to an end and 2016 get's going, please pray for me that I might learn wisdom and judgement which is honouring in God's sight.  If you get in touch, I'll pray for you.  Thank you for reading and enjoy the new year celebrations, or as we locals say, Kheri ya mwaka mpya!

4 Comments to 27/12/15: only a part-time control freak:

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Evodius Jackson on 28 December 2015 08:23
Asante sana!
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Geoff on 28 December 2015 10:44
Thank you, Evodius, great to work with you as one of our Masters students over the last year, and may the Lord bless you as you return to your post in January, Geoff


David Dawson on 28 December 2015 09:30
Yes, indeed, to nearly all your observations and preparations, Geoff. At St Andrews we have got members of the youth group in the past to do it all at the evening service in the village hall and, I am glad to say, thanks to Matt who is doing the sound for band and PA in the morning. I am also thankful for Shaun Monger for taking on the PA and Band sound from when I was in hospital. I think he knows better than me now and has implemented all of your suggestions, including attending some band practices. None of this was helped by the Power Amp for the PA dying at the school's carol service followed by me organising a temporary replacement form the village hall and purchasing a new amp (to be fitted this week). Oh what fun with band, PA, and projection!! Still, I did manage to mend one lapel mic! Thanks for all your blogs, Geoff; praise the Lord.
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Geoff on 28 December 2015 10:47
Thank you, David, very much appreciated your ministry on the technical side of things whilst worshiping at St Andrew's, Sherborne St John, near Basingstoke. Alas, can't guard against all eventualities, but that leads to another principle I devised whilst Organist in Muswell. When things go wrong, there are three questions to ask: were all reasonable precautions taken against things going wrong? Was the problem handled as well as it reasonably could have been at the time, causing least disruption to the service? Have I learnt something useful for future reference? If the answer to all three questions is no, that's a little depressing....

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