The Cape & Islands Deanery of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Massachusetts was tasked with creating a program to allow clergy to effectively communicate without having to physically travel to headquarters from locations all around its geographicallydispersed area. Many of the individual parishes are on outlying islands or other areas that require hours of travel time to attend in-person meetings.
The Cape & Islands Deanery is one of a number of geographically defined areas within the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Massachusetts. The Deanery comprises approximately nineteen parishes that are spread over an extremely diverse area including Plymouth, Buzzard's Bay and Wareham, Cape Cod, and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The Diocese of Massachusetts is one of the oldest and largest in the Episcopal Church and officially dates from 1784.
The Cape & Islands Deanery received a development grant from the Diocese of Massachusetts and set to work examining their options. Helen Gordon, the Technical Liaison for the Deanery, created a pilot program using an online video and web conferencing application. She also contacted ClearOne about using CHAT 150s and CHAT 50s as the audio conferencing products to use with the web conferencing utility.
“We use the CHAT 150 USB in large groups of up to about 75-100 people in noisy parish halls with great success,” said Ms. Gordon. Though only designed to be used by very small group of people, the Deanery effectively uses the CHAT 50 in rooms with as many as 20 people, Ms. Gordon explained. “Once we had CHAT 50s and CHAT 150s in hand, we knew this was the way to go. Ease of use, portability, and—most important to me—sound quality and clarity make these products real winners.” She also explained that the equipment needed to be extremely reliable and easy to use. “The point of a meeting is collaboration, not fiddling with computers and hardware. The products needed to be ‘priest-proof,’ ” she said with loving humor. “That simply means the equipment needs to be non-technical-person friendly.”
One big side benefit of the pilot program in Massachusetts was the ability to provide an excellent communication system to volunteers working in the hurricane Katrina relief effort. The Rev. Jane Bearden had been working in the Massachusetts diocese but when the devastation occurred in Mississippi, she immediately began looking for ways to return to her home state and help those in need. Rev. Bearden sold her home in Massachusetts and took a two-year assignment assisting in a parish whose mid-19th century building was demolished by the storm. After arriving in Louisiana, Rev. Bearden received a CHAT 150 that was donated by ClearOne and began holding audio and video conferences with all of the various organizations and agencies working as part of the relief effort. “In our work with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Gulf Coast we are be able to interact more effectively,” said Rev. Bearden. “Also, we have used it to connect real time with the BANA (Build a New America) group in Lynn Massachusetts.”
Three years after the storm and Ms. Gordon is still raving about the CHAT products: “We love them! In fact we’ve ordered more so that more parishes can easily participate.”