St Peter, Caversham

St Peter’s Church now provides high quality streaming of its services to online worshippers using new technology recently installed. But it has been a long journey to get to where we are today…

When COVID struck in early 2020, St Peter’s Church, along with many others, quickly converted to online worship. Each Sunday our congregation would join in from home on Zoom using laptops, tablets or phones for a service conducted by Rev Mike Smith from the Rectory. Most of us would stay on the Zoom session afterwards for coffee and chat – it was a welcome opportunity to keep in touch and even to make new friends.

During this time we attracted some people we hadn’t seen in church for a long time – or, in some cases, ever. It was clear a significant number of our congregation were experiencing something worthwhile, and would be disadvantaged when we finally went back to in-church worship – either because they are housebound, too far away, or because they needed to shelter for health reasons. So early in 2021 we began to think how we might continue to live stream our services once we moved back into church.

We already had a telephone in church, but no broadband, so that was the first hurdle. Did you know that most broadband suppliers won’t quote unless the property has a postcode, and that most Church of England churches do not have postcodes?! It’s relatively simple to acquire one, so long as you can convince the Post Office that you have a letter box, so we did*. One step forward! And then we got broadband, along with a new digital phone line. Another step forward, except… disaster: the new phone line meant that our old alarm system no longer worked because the systems were incompatible! So the alarm system was upgraded in May 2021. One more baby step towards our goal.

During this time we went out to tender for a streaming system. We wanted a solution which provided good quality audio to hear all aspects of our services (priest, choir, organ, readers, congregation) and good quality, varied video output. Moreover, inclusivity at St Peter’s means not just seeing and hearing the service, but also helping to run it, for example by doing the readings or leading the prayers. So another vital item on our shopping list was the ability to include remote users’ voices in the service. Our budget: an eye-watering £20,000! But worth it to support this important ministry.

In July last year we ventured back into church for our Sunday service for the first time since March 2020. Although the new system was still a long way off, we knew we had to continue streaming. So with our newly installed broadband we were able to live stream the service using a laptop and an iPad. We could even accommodate remote intercessions and readings by holding a microphone to the laptop speaker! This led to some awkward moments for our faithful team of streamers, but mostly it worked – after a fashion.

But the single video output from the iPad was unsatisfactory. And the sound quality was worse: people on Zoom could hear what Mike was saying, but other speakers were harder to hear, and listening to the organ and the choir singing was excruciating!

Nevertheless we continued to get about 20 people online every week, and their presence was a continual spur to us. The new system couldn’t come soon enough. But St Peter’s is a grade 2* listed building and permission to make changes is only granted after very careful consideration by the diocese. So it was another year before our new system could finally be installed, in July this year.

The system was provided and installed by Distributed Sound and Video Ltd. It includes 4 cameras – two of which can move and zoom in/out to capture pre-set or bespoke camera angles – and a number of new microphones around the building. These all feed into a central console to provide a vastly improved audio and visual experience for our remote worshippers. (The pictures, below, show some of the views worshippers get at home.)

We now have an 8-strong team of streamers who take it in turn to run the desk each week, and we are all learning a whole new set of skills! As was our dream, we have a permanent congregation of remote worshippers, for whom online church provides a source of comfort and fellowship. They are fully included in our worship: regulars have copies of the church hymn books and hymn text is also broadcast on Zoom chat, so everyone can sing along with the rest of the congregation; service booklets are sent out by email in advance; and ‘Zoomers’ still have the opportunity to ‘stay behind’ for coffee after the service, whilst those in church do likewise! All of which helps to maintain our church’s sense of community, including those who are not physically amongst us.

Worship is every Sunday at 9.30am. Anyone is welcome to join us live in church or on Zoom. Just click on the link under ‘9.30am Service at St Peter’s’ on the services page. This page also provides details of other streamed and in-person worship from St Peter’s and our sister churches, St John’s and St Margaret’s. If you would like to join our email distribution list, email

* It’s RG4 7TH – although we still don’t have a letter box!

Nigel Smith
former churchwarden, St Peter Caversham