One of the trickiest bits of continuing to provide worship during the pandemic has been getting to grips with how we define “a service”. This might seem like a pretty clear-cut thing on the surface – it’s a time when we come together to worship, and there’s a set of words which are said.

When we were able to worship together, this was pretty easy to manage. We had an entry in the calendar so we knew when services were, there was a rota so we knew who was responsible for things, and we had some orders of service that people could follow.

And then the world turned upside down, and we found ourselves delivering almost every single aspect of our services in a whole new way. Most of these relied on some form of technology, and since we had to throw things together in a hurry what we ended up with was a bit of a tangled mess.

A very rough representation of how different bits of our services workflow fit together.

Around the summer of 2020, almost all of the steps of moving information around between different systems were done manually, and as manual processes, they were prone to errors. So we spent a few months automating some things and reducing the number of places we had to re-describe a service. By getting rid of this administrative overhead and automating away a lot of the busywork we freed up more time to explore ways of actually delivering a better experience for everyone, rather than just keeping the wheels spinning. It’s through this kind of optimisation that we were able to find the time to better integrate service audio, add multiple camera angles, refine our online orders of service and more.

The next big change we’ve been working on recently is unifying the idea of “service” and “order of service” on the website. Previously, we described a service in two distinct ways for this – once on the “live services” list, and once as an “orders of service” page. There was an awful lot of overlap in the information between the two things – and duplication is something which both takes time and introduces a way for errors to creep in. Wherever possible we prefer a single, canonical source of truth which everything else takes its information from.

So what’s changed? Hopefully in terms of how you experience things, not much at all. There have been some visual changes in a couple of places, but the bulk of the work has been entirely behind the scenes. We no longer have one place where we hold a single big list of services, but instead we have a collection of things called “service” which we can dig into and organise in a much more intelligent way.

The upshot is that things are now more consistently organised. As we head towards a full year of recorded services in the archive, and with our plans to continue streaming services until further notice, keeping this back-catalogue neat and tidy helps everyone find what they’re looking for.