powerpoint

“Do you use a projector?” she asked. Some will remember the days when Anglicans could get a good idea of a person’s worship style by whether he (yes in those days it was a “he”) wore a chasuble. Now, for many people, contemporary worship is determined by the use of a projector screen. No screen – you’re obviously an old fogey, wading through page after ponderous page of some ancient book…

Let me be clear at the outset – I’m not against screens and projectors in worship. I’ve posted here about using them well. But lately I’ve, again and again, seen them used so badly that the assumption contemporary worship EQUALS a projector screen needs serious questioning.

I was in a very new church building complete with two brand-new projector screens. All the service words were projected onto the screen – including the words of the readings. I was about half way down the nave. I’m relatively tall, but I could not see the bottom third to a quarter of the words because of the heads in front of me. Looking between heads from the left screen to the right screen gave me some idea of many words. Anyone shorter than me would have seen much less.

Different occasion; different space: The words for the whole worship song was on a single screen at quite a distance. The central part of the screen had a video of a band playing this song in an enthusiastic service in a country half a planet away, and the sound of that band was fed through the speakers. Many, in the service we were in, didn’t know the song. Many, even of those who did know it, couldn’t read the tiny words on the screen. And then, the primary sense was still spectator: we were mostly watching other people somewhere else, some other time, singing a song.

Third occasion: the person controlling the projector kept being on the wrong slide. There was little sense of deep worship – mostly it was amusement in the congregation every time the wrong slide came up. And then the several worship services where the slides themselves were incorrect.

The paradigm that worship is a poetry recital of interesting words has translated in a magnified way to screen-focused “worship”: endless ‘we say this, now you say that, now he reads this, now we sing that, now we say this and you say that, now she reads this’ is what is taken to be contemporary worship.

And then there is the idol of creativity and novelty. As we, the unconsulted congregation, say our endless words, we can never be sure what the next slide will reveal that we will be proclaiming together.

Then there are the images. Many, of course, breach copyright. Others are at the inane kitten-and-balls-of-wool, clip-art level of depth. Some may be accompanied by a title, e.g. “The Sermon”, as a fatuous placeholder for a regular slot in the service, an image that we have before us during that relatively lengthy period.

And then there are power point devotees who have discovered all the different transitions possible from slide to slide…

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