If you have attended Heritage online worship services, participated in a church meeting or meditation session, or just spent time virtually hanging out with some friends or family members through your computer, you already know about Zoom, a video-conferencing platform in wide use throughout our communities. Our Heritage Worship Committee has decided to use Zoom to stream our worship services until we can meet again in person.
There are many advantages to using Zoom for Heritage’s Worship Services. If you’ve attended in the last few weeks, you have witnessed those advantages, including seeing one another’s faces, voicing our joys and sorrows in Candles of Community via the “Chat” tool, seeing and hearing recordings by our musicians, praying our Benediction together, and even joining a small group afterward for “virtual coffee hour.”
But sadly, there is one particular disadvantage with Zoom which is worrying, and we wanted to let you know about it. It’s called “ZOOMBOMBING,” where people with malicious intent can invade a Zoom session, for example by posting racist slurs in the Chat, shouting hate speech or taking over the video screen and showing offensive images, including graphic pornography. These “invaders” are typically unknowingly admitted to the Zoom session by the Host or Co-Host because the invaders masquerade as legitimate attendees / participants. Then, once in, they disrupt the session by “bombing” with offensive messages and images.
A handful of UU Churches have experienced zoombombing – two in the past week in New York and Massachusetts. Churches are not the only targets as zoombombers have disrupted online school classes, AA meetings, press conferences and other gatherings. In such cases, if the Host is not able to block the offending “bomber,” the only alternative is to shut the session down and end it for all.
Since Heritage will be using Zoom for worship services for the foreseeable future, we wanted to make you aware of this issue. Here are the steps we’ve taken to try to prevent zoombombing at Heritage’s worship and other online meetings.
- Only the “host” of the Zoom meeting has the ability to share their screen.
- Virtual backgrounds (which may include offensive images), white board, annotation, and remote control features are all disabled.
- All participants (except for those presenting in the service) will be muted throughout the worship service and will not be able to “unmute” themselves, except at key points in the service, such as during the Benediction.
- Before the Worship Service begins, all Participants are first placed in a “waiting room” before being admitted into the service.
- Two Co-hosts act as “ushers” (ushers are typically members of the Worship Committee) and “admit” each participant individually, once they recognize that participant’s name.
- When the ushers do not recognize the identity / name of a participant, they send a chat to let the person know they will be admitted soon. Ushers then use the HUUC Directory to check identities.
- Even if the participant is not in our current directory, they will still be admitted to the worship service as we always welcome visitors. Once they are admitted to the service, they will receive a warm, friendly welcome in the Chat and asked their name, much as an in-person greeter would welcome someone who is physically visiting Heritage Church on a Sunday morning.
- Throughout the service, ushers will keep an eye on any participants who are unfamiliar. If a participant attempts to disrupt the worship service, ushers have the ability to “remove” them from the Zoom meeting.
YOU CAN HELP US BY IDENTIFYING YOURSELF!
Please be sure your screen name easily identifies you, if possible. If it is a nickname, a company name, your phone number, or someone else’s name, please change it to your name as soon as you are admitted. Hover over your image until a drop-down menu appears and choose “Rename,” then enter a name that our ushers will recognize.
This helps the ushers know they do not have to worry about monitoring you. Newcomers and visitors are always welcome, but the ushers do try to keep an eye on them until it is clear they are there with good intentions. We are working to take every precaution for the safety of our worship service and your families. Making sure your screen name is your actual name, will make the ushers’ job so much easier.
Even with these precautions, it may be possible for a ‘Zoomboomer” or a group of them to cause havoc. Should this occur, and our ushers are not able to quickly remove the person or persons, the Zoom Host will end the service immediately. If this happens, look for an email from the HUUC Announcements list for a new link or more information. While this is unfortunate, it is necessary to preserve the safety and privacy of all of us.
Thank you for your cooperation and patience as we learn how to stay connected and worship together, in the Love that is the Spirit of this Church.
April 21, 2020.