(Above) Paige Sharp and William Chinnery prepare to film a scene for Oshawa Temple Tales, a children’s video series they helped to create for online services

In March 2020, Oshawa Temple, Ont., put out a call for contributions as they moved church services online. Children’s time is one of my favourite parts of church, so I had the idea to make some kind of Sunday school videos. I asked Paige Sharp to join me, and she roped in her cousin, William Chinnery, a wiz in recording and editing. Together, we discussed the plan: a three-part series of videos for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter.

The first videos featured quirky characters who were exaggerated versions of ourselves and our friendship. Paige is a little lost, and Simon, the know-itall, explains everything to her. In the first video, Paige wears sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt, with decorative palm trees behind her, ready for a Palm Sunday luau. In exasperation, Simon asks, “Paige, what are you wearing?” and explains that Palm Sunday is about the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as the people waved palm branches.

With the challenge of COVID-19 and physical distancing measures, we filmed the videos separately, using our laptops to record and sync our conversation. William placed the two videos side by side and even added music, which was a big deal to us at the time. Looking back, after filming 25 subsequent videos, that first one is terrible! The dialogue is forced and the acting awkward, but the energy and passion was great—and that’s what drove us to learn and get better.

After our first few videos, we started to think of more ways to improve the quality. The scripts became more involved, and we invited many guests from across the territory and beyond to make special appearances, such as Captain Mark Dunstan, Colonels Edward and Shelley Hill, Commissioners Mark and Sharon Tillsley, Commissioner Floyd Tidd, Captains Juan Chirinos and Indira Albert, and Majors David and April McNeilly.

Most Sunday nights, we would call each other to chat and think of what fun and crazy ideas we could bring to life, within the limitations of COVID-19. We started to add more graphics, animations, sound effects and music tracks. In our Pentecost video, “Holy Fire,” the effects brought the scene to life as Paige accidentally sets her tablecloth on fire.

In early July, COVID-19 restrictions were lifted slightly, so with masks and distancing, the three of us met at Oshawa Temple to shoot some of our videos. We were able to use the corps’ camera, microphones, lights and a greenscreen—although more advanced equipment meant more opportunities to make mistakes.

Out of all the videos we created, my favourite opening has to be the one where Paige marches around the Oshawa Temple parking lot, blowing on a trombone and trying to knock down the walls, like Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Despite how funny it is, it was the most frustrating video to shoot. The first time, we somehow managed to film it without sound. On our reshoot day a week later, it poured with rain, preventing us from getting the shots in the parking lot. Finally, that evening, right before we were ready to go home, it stopped raining for 30 minutes and we were able to capture everything we needed.

Encouraging messages from congregation members, parents from our corps and online viewers kept the three of us writing scripts and filming videos. In addition to our weekly inclusion in Oshawa Temple’s services, and later in services from Yorkminster Citadel in Toronto, we also shared all of our videos on YouTube, and sent our videos to as many churches as we could to use in their services.

As the summer began to wind down, we knew we were writing and shooting some of our final videos. Come September, the three of us would be moving away from home again to return to university and there wouldn’t be time to continue. With some help from our corps officers, General Brian Peddle agreed to star in our big finale. Even after he agreed to participate, I was still stunned when he sent us his video reading a script I had written!

We posted “Our Mission,” the final Oshawa Temple Tales video, on September 27. It quickly became our most-watched video, with more than 2,000 views. General Peddle gave the three of us, and all the viewers at home, one final mission: “Live boldly, and live your life with love ... and tell people everywhere about the faith you have in Jesus … General Peddle out.”

You can watch Oshawa Temple Tales at: bit.ly/TempleTales.

Simon Hopkins is a senior soldier at Ottawa Citadel.

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