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LEWISTON, Maine — Recently, several hundred members of Holy Trinity Church watched pastor Jeremy Woods eat breakfast, work on his sermon and make a Starbucks run. Woods had just joined a growing group of pastors who are broadcasting their lives 24/7 on the Internet.
"When I first heard of going live I thought, 'This is the future of pastoring but I'm not sure I like it,'" Woods says. But after a month he says he "totally digs it."
"It's the next step beyond blogging or even live blogging," he says. "It's about sharing life."
The trend is believed to have started in 2004 when Rick Givens of New York's West Side Church decided to make himself "more accountable and accessible" by webcasting every waking moment live. But his pioneering effort has forced other pastors into awkward decisions. Donald Taylor, 37, of Nebraska didn't want to go live, but relented because of pressure from his board. He hated his first week.
"It was like being in prison. You never have a moment to yourself," he says.
But soon he began to enjoy having a constant audience. His wife particularly likes it because "he behaves more," she says. "It's like having God looking over your shoulder. You never know who's watching."
To go live, pastors outfit their offices and homes with surveillance cameras and clip miniature video cameras to themselves which are linked to the Internet via cell phone. During counseling sessions and other sensitive occasions the audio is cut and faces are blurred. At night, pastors set the camera facing a closed bedroom door so viewers can see that they haven't left the room.