The Great Episcopal Baking Show - Digital Ministry that Inspires!
King Cake is a sweet tradition associated with the Epiphany arrival of the Magi and with the celebratory, indulgent carnival season that concludes on Shrove Tuesday. In a long, strange year when special days lack their usual traditions and every day feels much like Groundhog Day, anything that breaks up the monotony is welcome. This year, Andrea McKellar, the Digital Ministry Coordinator for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Charleston coordinated a delightful multi-generational formation experience for Epiphany – one that could be replicated for Shrove Tuesday! Inspired by the Great British Baking Show (GBBS), her parish hosted a King Cake baking competition, inviting the rector, the deacon, and a vestry member to bake at home and asking parish families to evaluate their efforts. Their attempts were video-recorded and Andrea edited a GBBS-style video, complete with commentary from discerning judges.
The 12-minute video was shared with parish families on Epiphany Eve. Accompanied by a link to the King Cake recipe, it also served as an invitation to parishioners to submit their own baking photos and videos. The goals for the activity were to help people learn about Epiphany, celebrate it in a different way, and have some fun. And of course, eat cake.
Andrea and Assistant Priest Courtney Davis Shoemaker kept the instructions to participants simple – and a little secretive! They invited them to be part of a baking contest and suggested a list of ingredients to have on hand but did not reveal the item they would be tasked with baking. Courtney assembled kits of materials that she dropped off at the three bakers’ homes the day of the event. The kits included: a crown, an Episcopal apron, the King Cake recipe, a plastic baby to put in the cake, colored frosting, and glitter sugar. Contestants were told they had a 4-hour time limit to bake the cake. During the process, they could phone one friend for help (or to borrow a stand mixer!) and conduct one Google search. The bakers were reliant on people in their own households to video record and, perhaps, provide commentary. Everyone used cell phones to record their video, including the audio. Some participants recorded lots of short clips and some, particularly the judges, recorded longer clips. Andrea wanted to convey a relaxed attitude about technology, making it easy to participate using devices readily at hand. Other than general instructions to introduce themselves, record horizontally, minimize background noises such as a TV, and pause before speaking, she gave very few specific directions as to how to capture the action. Once everyone recorded their segments as they saw fit, they uploaded the clips to a DropBox for Andrea to edit.
To create the final video, she used Open Shot, a free open-source video editing software that she finds to be fairly user-friendly but that has a few extra features. She used Canva to create picture slides, overlays, and graphics; and she used royalty-free music. She watched The Great British Baking Show to get a sense of the sequence and flow of the program and watched YouTube videos about film editing to sharpen her skills. It took her around 11 hours to edit the 130 video clips into a cohesive program. She planned on creating a video between 10 and 15 minutes long. The goal was to make the video long enough to be informative and entertaining, but short enough for quick attention spans!
The video was very popular among parishioners and is a great example of how digital ministry can fuse creatively with experiential ministry. Why did this activity work so well?
- It played on something familiar – in this case, the Great British Baking Show. People know and expect a certain narrative arc and Andrea’s video follows it, albeit in a slightly shorter timeframe. Good segmentation moves the narrative along.
- Baking has been a popular activity during the pandemic, so the video reflected a timely awareness of what people are enjoying and building on it. Plus, it is always fun to see people in their home environment, in their home kitchens.
- The video features clergy and other leaders acting in non-traditional roles and not serving as experts. It is always intriguing to see people out of their comfort zones. To guarantee success, Andrea invited participants who weren’t shy, who wouldn’t take themselves too seriously, and who would be chatty.
- The particular recipe and baking process was easy enough to be replicable in each of the households (even those without a stand mixer) but was challenging enough to create the potential for a humorous mishap.
- Formation was woven into the video organically. Andrea resisted the urge to begin the video with a long-winded explanation of Epiphany. She jumped into the action because all viewers really wanted at that point was the rector covered in flour. By waiting to provide an educational component until there was a natural pause in the action - the time for the dough to rise – viewers were invested in the video and willing to engage with the formation piece. Also, although the “pause” didn’t really last as long as it took the dough to rise, including and utilizing this pause added authenticity to the narrative.
- Andrea invited a demographic mix of people from her parish to participate. She especially loved putting the youngest members in the role of judges. Six-year-old Aubrey’s disappointed, “…didn’t have time for the glitter” lets us know what is really important to her as a judge! The spontaneity of a young girl, sitting on the floor eating cake in her pajamas was delightful (and utterly in character, according to Andrea!)
- The activity resulted in not just consumable video content but it provided a jump-off point, inspiration, and encouragement to viewers to “try it at home.” Andrea provided a link to the recipe and an invitation to share pictures and videos of their own King Cake baking efforts.
- Participation in the activity wasn’t restricted to a specific time. Families could watch the video at their leisure and bake their cakes whenever.
Andrea was delighted at the reception and response to the video and is actively imagining other ways to continue to use digital ministry to enhance experiential ministry activities both during the isolated times of the pandemic and in the future when people are able to gather together again. How might you use digital ministry to invite your parishioners into more experiential opportunities?
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
What can we create together?
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