Skeye Studios photo
Holy Trinity Church, Beaverton from the perspective of a drone.
Skeye Studios photo
Holy Trinity Church, Beaverton from the perspective of a drone.
Drones aren’t the kind of technology one typically equates with Catholic parishes.
Chris Kiefer is changing that. As a side project to his business Skeye Studios, Kiefer has volunteered at a number of parishes to shoot aerial photos using an unmanned aerial vehicle. The 23-year-old flew a miniature multi-rotor helicopter with camera attached to the ceiling at his own church, Holy Trinity in Beaverton, to capture the congregation smiling and waving.

Not only is the church photo friendly, it’s unusual and eye-catching. That’s something that is missing from many parish websites, Kiefer said.

“Churches are slowly starting to update their websites, but many times you go to the church website and you can’t even see what the church looks like,” Kiefer said. That’s a shame, he said, because most Catholic churches are beautiful.

That’s also a problem when churches are trying to attract teens and young adults, Kiefer said. He graduated last year from Carroll College in Montana with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“Anytime I hear about something new, the first thing I do is look it up on the internet,” Kiefer said.  Pew Research Center statistics back up Kiefer’s personal experience; 93 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 29 are online.

No matter how dynamic church leadership is, or how faith-filled parishioners are, clunky, outdated technology could be the thing that turns off a curious young person investigating his or her faith.

Father David Gutmann, pastor at Holy Trinity, noticed that attendance was booming at the nearby Beaverton Foursquare Church. Foursquare’s leadership even have to hire people to direct traffic on Sundays. Father Gutmann asked how they do it. In part, it’s how they manage their technology.

“In their experience people are used to seeing advertisements and movies done professionally and for the church to do it sloppy or amateurish is just not effective,” Father Gutmann said. “Their advice to me was:  do it really well, or not at all.”

Luckily, modern technology has given everyone inexpensive and fast access to quality video and photos. Kiefer helps his clients figure out how to tell their stories in a compelling way through photos and video.

Video work is how Kiefer makes a living, but, for now, the drone photos are a work of charity.

While legislation to manage drone-use safety and privacy in the United States is forming, the unmanned aerial vehicles cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Until the legislation is complete and Kiefer establishes what role drones will play in his business, he is using his drone to help Catholic parishes and other church organizations.
To see Holy Trinity’s new video invitation, log on to www.h-t.org.