Techie elder tells how to cybercast
By Dixon Cartwright
CINCINNATI, Ohio --Broadcasting used to be a big deal. It involved investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and erecting towers and guy wires and hiring engineers and equipping control rooms and sound studios, not to mention applying for complicated and costly licensing from the Federal Communication Commission.
The traditional approach to broadcasting is still around, but nowadays an aspiring news anchor, weatherman, deejay, talk-show host or preacher can get set up to broadcast live around the world from the comfort of his own home--for $1,000 or less.
It's not done with smoke and mirrors; it is done--not too surprisingly--with the Internet.
Cybercasting ratchets that exponential increase in knowledge via cyberspace up another notch. Somebody needs to keep up with it all, and one man who's determined to stay on top of it is Dan Deininger of Helena, Mont.
While in Cincinnati to cover the fifth general conference of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association, The Journal attended Mr. Deininger's presentation on cybercasting.
Every day of the conference the 150 or so delegates could see fellow elder Mr. Deininger at the back of the hall sitting in front of a computer and microphone. From there he broadcast the proceedings to the world.
Well, not exactly to the world, but he went out live to about 60 locations around the planet. The broadcasts were much like radio programs, except that on the receiving end sat a computer on somebody's desk instead of a radio receiver. But, like a radio program, an immediate, live, serviceable-quality audio version of each day's proceedings arrived in listeners' homes interspersed by commentary from Mr. Deininger and his friend Tony Pacelli of Lafayette, Ind.
Some of the 60 computers tuned in were surrounded by more than one person--up to several dozen brethren at the same location--so a total of several hundred people were listening in.
Sixty or a few hundred listening in from around the globe may not sound like many, but it's a start, said Mr. Deininger, and the capacity can easily grow to thousands or even a theoretically unlimited-in-size audience. All it takes is a few thousand dollars' worth of additional computer equipment and a fast modem.
Mr. Deininger served as a delegate to the general conference of the UCG-AIA, but he emphasized that his cybercasting efforts are specifically meant to benefit the Churches of God at large, not just the UCG. He is a UCG elder, but he is also founder of the Churches of God Cyber Auxiliary, or CGCA, which he and other Helena members operate.
"We chose the name very carefully," he told 30-some people assembled one evening after the day's official ministerial meetings. "It is not a church. It's an auxiliary," and "our services are available to anyone who basically adheres to the same doctrine beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God c. 1986."
Therefore, any Church of God groups that want to figure out how to broadcast on the Internet--their Sabbath services, seminars, conferences or Feast observances or preach to the world--are invited to write Mr. Deininger for more information.
"We use the same philosophy that Mr. Armstrong used," he said: "freely give, freely receive. And our server is also available for anyone to use for Web sites, for E-mail and for E-mail forwarding."
Mr. Deininger's seminar included a panel discussion on cybercasting. While several men with Internet expertise sat behind a table at the front of the hotel meeting room, Mr. Deininger simultaneously broadcast the sounds of the meeting to about 60 computers from Ohio to South Africa and points in between.
He commented to the 20 or so people in his hotel audience and the people listening in cyberspace that the brethren in the Helena congregation "have a real desire to serve the living-room Church of God." To keep their eyes on their objectives, he and the other Helenians keep several points in mind when broadcasting over the Internet:
"We don't believe that we, the United Church of God, are the only true church," Mr. Deininger said. "I'd have to say that not every minister who is a credentialed minister in the United Church of God believes that; some think we are. Fortunately and officially, that's not our policy. To show respect and honor to other organizations, I think, is valuable and important."
The CGCA is funded by donations, although Mr. Deininger doesn't beg for money. Maybe he doesn't have to because he has quite a few people helping him with his cybercasting efforts. At his seminar, in fact, several people from various geographical areas were present to talk about their Internet activities and lend their expertise to the listeners in the hotel and elsewhere.
"I've tried to assemble a panel of men who are doing different things with the Internet that will bring us up to a certain level of understanding," Mr. Deininger commented.
The panel included Richard Kennebeck and Peter Eddington of the UCG's home office in nearby Milford, Ohio; Guy Swenson, an elder from Lafayette, Ind.; Mitch Knapp, an elder from St. Paul, Minn.; Victor Kubik of Indianapolis, a member of the council of elders; and Mr. Pacelli, also from Lafayette.
"We're trying to share information, to share what is being done," said Mr. Deininger, "so others can do the same thing. This is becoming a very synergistic, exciting opportunity. It makes me very happy just to be here and hear other people talking about this and hearing their ideas. It's almost frightening."
Free Web service
Mr. Kennebeck was next to speak after Mr. Deininger. He began his comments with a report on United's official activities on the Internet, including its Web site and internal E-mail network.
Mr. Kennebeck recommended two sources for free access to the Internet: Juno, at (800) 654-5866, and Net Zero, (818) 879-7250. Juno is free E-mail only; Net Zero includes free access to the Web. Both are Windows-based programs that are not available to Macintosh users.
Mr. Eddington, who serves as editor of United News, the member newspaper, reported on the church's Web site.
"Since last January, just over a year ago, our Web-site traffic increased 800 percent," he said. "Now, that is primarily due to the streaming audio we've incorporated in the last six months. We try to post a new sermon each week."
Mr. Eddington discussed United's policy on linking to other sites. Many Web sites (including The Journal's and several maintained by UCG congregations) link to United's site, but United, to date, has not reciprocated by linking to anybody else's sites.
"The council is developing a Web policy," said Mr. Eddington. "It's gone through several stages of revision by the attorney and by the insurance companies."
The church is concerned about the possibility of lawsuits, he said.
"We have to have media liability insurance. We have insurance on all these publications as a church. If something is printed that is not quite right, somebody can sue us."
What's a Web page?
Mr. Knapp pastors a congregation that has a successful Web site.
"In June 1995, about a month after United began," he said, "Bill Ellison in St. Paul came to me and said, 'Maybe we should start a church Web page.' My response was 'What's a Web page?' "
The St. Paul site has grown "exponentially," Mr. Knapp commented, and the congregation uses it to reach the public with the church's message.
Cost per response started at $2.01 in 1995. In 1997 it was down to 76 cents. In January 1999 it was 24 cents. In February it was 16 cents.
"It keeps on going down," said Mr. Knapp. "It's almost free."
As a result of the site, "we know of some new members and some baptisms, and [we've made recontact with] some old members."
The congregation's goals for the Web include preaching the gospel and intercongregational communication.
Visit the St. Paul brethren at www.ucgstp.org.
No extra burden
Mr. Swenson said the Lafayette congregation is amazed how quickly it could take advantage of new technology and begin to serve a large number of people.
"The Lafayette congregation is a fairly small congregation," he said. "We average between 40 and 45 brethren at any given service. It's really no extra burden on us in the ministry" to cybercast Sabbath services.
Mr. Swenson talked of expanded uses for cybercasting, including Bible studies and foreign-language broadcasts.
"Why couldn't we have an in-home Bible study every night of the week. Different congregations could sponsor one every night of the week. There are four time zones in the [48 contiguous] United States alone.
"In Indianapolis we have a growing Spanish population. There is no way for me, in central Indiana, to reach that growing population with anything about the message of Jesus Christ. But we have people in Chile and Mexico who speak Spanish, remarkably. Why not have a Spanish Bible study or Spanish service that people can tie into? And that's just one language."
A major advantage of cybercasting, he said, is that it operates in "real time"; in other words, it's a live broadcast. It has an immediacy not associated with taped or printed information.
Mr. Deininger introduced Mr. Kubik and remarked that his site (www.kubik.org) is probably one of the most heavily visited in the UCG because he regularly and frequently updates it.
"I got into the Internet Jan. 18, 1996," Mr. Kubik said. "I was amazed how simple it was."
His cost for Web presence has steadily gone down, he said, starting at $75 a month. It's now $17.50 a month.
He attributes his site's success to his frequent updates and that he uses many pictures on his site.
When it comes to having an effective Web site, it's important to keep up with technology, and it's important to update often. In fact, he updates his site at least once a day and sometimes twice a day.
"On the subject of the Internet," he concluded, "I believe the principle that applies is the first shall be first."
For more information
To listen to cybercasts, a computer user needs software called RealPlayer (available for Windows and the Mac), which is downloadable for free from www.real.com.
What's next in store for cybercasters? Not too surprisingly, Mr. Deininger says the wave of the future will be cybertelecasting. All it takes is more computer memory, a faster modem and not too much more money.
Write Mr. Deininger with questions about cybercasting and the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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