This blog post written by the Rev. Eric L. Murray is a result of Leaders for Hybrid Futures, a community of learning and practice created by Rev. Tim Schenck and Learning Forte’s CEO, Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, to reflect on and experiment with hybrid ministry. This innovative program is a partnership with LEAD, TX, and Learning Forte’s Digital Ministry Initiative and is funded by a leadership grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street.
On August 1, 1981, MTV launched its 24 hour-a-day music television channel with none other than the music video, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by the UK group, The Buggles.
I don’t know which is more ironic, The Buggles making their radio song “Video Killed the Radio Star” into a video or their song which critiques the advance of technology to the detriment of art in general, and music more specifically, used to launch Music Television, the prime expression of the very thing which it critiques.
Regardless, forty-one years later and video has not killed the radio star. In fact, radio seems to be going strong, as are music videos. Vinyl has made a comeback. Streaming apps like Apple Music and Spotify are going gangbusters. All of these expressions of music did not kill off the others. They also don’t just co-exist. Rather, it seems they each have come alongside the others to do more than any could do alone. Together, they form a mosaic of musical appreciation, enhancing and elevating music to a level radio never could do all alone.
Some within the church worry that with the onset of streaming worship services, we have gone too far. Streaming video will kill worship as we’ve traditionally experienced it, they fear. Others are ready to abandon streaming as quickly as possible and return to the safe confines of in-the-building ministry. Others are suggesting a hybrid model, not one or the other, but something wholly new.
I drive a hybrid car. It gets the “hybrid” designation because it is a cross between a regular combustion engine vehicle and an electric vehicle. Not one or the other, it is something wholly new, a “hybrid” of the two. When it comes to something like a car, the “hybrid” designation makes sense.
When discussing our congregations and digital media, I don’t really think we are suggesting that by combining in-the-building participation with online participation we desire one wholly new thing in place of the two. No, rather than a hybrid model, I believe what we’re really talking about is a mosaic of ministries, each ministry or media maintaining its own form and beauty, each expression coming alongside the others to do more than any could do alone. Far from streaming and digital media killing worship, this mosaic of ministry would enhance and elevate our ministries to a level in-the-building worship may never do alone.
(1) “Video Killed the Radio Star,” The Buggles. Virgin Records, London, 1979. Lyrics from Musicmatch.
The Rev. Eric L. Murray is Co-Lead Pastor with Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN. Along with his spouse, The Rev. Pauline Farrington, Pastor Eric began serving Saint Andrew in July of 2021. Besides contemplating the future of the church and our place in it, Pastor Eric enjoys the art of Makoto Fujimura, the poetry of Mary Oliver, and the music of Jon Batiste.