Virtual Worship provides Opportunity for Diversity


Summit 2020 will open with the first theme or worship session at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, and viewers will immediately hear and see a difference from years past.

Summit, an annual event at Abilene Christian University since its founding in 1906–except for 1946–is going virtual this year because of COVID-19. Visitors who normally come to Abilene each fall for Summit will be disappointed not to be meeting in person. But Summit leaders realized that the situation also presents opportunities. One of those is diversifying the participants and the audience, with the potential for a global reach. 

David Kneip

And taking advantage of that opportunity is David Kneip, associate department chair of ACU’s Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, who is in charge of worship for the theme sessions. Students know Kneip for his creativity, as do Abilenians who have seen Kneip on stage at the Paramount Theatre. Kneip combined his knowledge and creativity to put together worship sessions that include people from various places in the world, including several from west Africa, offering prayers. One participant in Ecuador will say a prayer in English and a partner will repeat it in Spanish. 

Prayers were recorded and sent to Kneip, who collaborated with Hutton Harris, video production manager for ACUtv, and his staff to work their magic. The TV crew can combine the various pieces as they come in, resulting in a seamless worship. A week out, not all the components had been submitted to Kneip, but he isn’t concerned.

“We’re feeling good about all these pieces coming in,” he said. 

The worship sessions also will feature musical groups from churches in Lubbock, Houston, and Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, plus a student team. All the music will be a cappella and will include older hymns and contemporary pieces.

The scripture reading will be a little different, too. Instead of someone reading the scriptures, they will be presented in an interpretive, storytelling style. The presenters were videoed ahead of time for Kneip to incorporate into the worship session.  

The 45-minute sessions also will include the theme speaker and a blessing at the end. With a background in leading worship and in theater, Kneip felt at home putting the worship sessions together, but he was grateful to have the assistance of Harris at ACUtv and others on campus. The easiest part of the new experience for Kneip has been working with Harris and his staff and students at ACUtv. The studio is first-class and the crew is great to work with.

“All my interaction has been super professional,” Kneip said.

The hardest part has been the technological challenges, such as managing large files, and communicating with people about the best way to send them electronically. 

David Wray, a co-coordinator for Summit, said most likely future Summits will be a hybrid experience, with some components held on campus and some virtually. Kneip, like others involved with this first-time experience, has accepted the challenge and turned it into an opportunity.

“Given the circumstances,” Kneip said, “let’s just learn as much as we can.”

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