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Luddite liturgy

Those who know me know I’m not a Luddite. I was an early adopter of the interactive projector for teaching in the classroom. I think the iPad is seriously cool. And I’ve long known enough HTML to tinker with my own website which I’ve been running for six years now.

But I am an advocate for appropriate technology.

For some things the most expensive, most flashy, latest gadget – is the least appropriate way to do things.

Screens in church for worship

Recently I was in the congregation at a service where there were two large screens diagonally in the corners for the congregation, and one more facing the leadership in the stage/chancel/sanctuary area. And it was death by PowerPoint. Screens and PowerPoint may still feel “with it” for the oldies that dominate and lead – but it’s over two decades old now. Young people have not known a world in which it didn’t exist. Even the concept of “death by PowerPoint” is an issue realised more than a decade ago.

Sure, there’s possibly ways of incorporating digital images and contemporary technology etc. into worship. But let’s look at just a few issues that leaped out merely at this one service.

The presider was hamstrung by technology and could not glance forward to the next section of the service. So at the end of one slide the presider made an assumption about the next slide and asked the large congregation to be seated. On came the next slide. The intention had been to be standing – so next came the commentary about our posture and the issues with the technology.

During the Eucharistic Prayer the text was provided for the presider (and, hence, for the congregation) on the screen. Half way through the Eucharistic Prayer whoever was operating the screen forgot to go to the next slide (possibly “distracted” by actually praying?!). The presider (and the congregation) waited there patiently, smiling. Any longer and another might have found themselves giggling.

We’ve recently been discussing, here, the projecting of the texts of readings onto a screen. Can someone please tell me when they were last at a play where the words of the play were projected onto a screen? Or is the general expectation at a play that the quality of the proclamation is sufficient? Do we have a lesser expectation at services?

At this service the words of the intercessions were not projected onto the screen. Was the understanding that the leaders of the intercessions were actually leading us in prayer? Is the Eucharistic Prayer not firstly a prayer? A prayer in which, like the intercessions, all of us share? Why was it, then, treated differently to the intercessions? Were we to be checking that the presider followed the words exactly – get the incantation exactly correct? In the event a whole line in the Eucharistic Prayer was omitted by the presider. Obvious to all following the words carefully on the screen. Were the ever-theologically-vigilant immediately distracted from praying by wondering why the line was omitted (accidentally? did the presider not accept what the line states?…)

Not to mention that liturgy degenerated from powerful symbolic actions accompanied by interpretive words to hundreds of people staring at screens of words in the corners of the worship space…

When it comes to liturgy – I’m mostly a Luddite.

ps. At another service we, in the congregation, were instructed by the leader to proclaim a “creed” together. On the screen, slide after slide, came a newly-invented “creed” that we had never seen before – we couldn’t even look ahead to see the words we were now so energetically committing ourselves to. In the event it was one of those inane, instantly-forgettable “creeds” (with that feel of the decade in which screens became de rigueur in some churches) and I don’t think anyone could possibly have perjured themselves.

pps. The leader instructing us to declare our faith in this “creed” was one of those strongly confessional pro-Anglican-Covenant types who did not appear to see the irony in getting a congregation to commit themselves to a statement of faith they had never even seen before. But that is another story.

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81 thoughts on “Luddite liturgy”

  1. Oh dear, here (which I will not name) we have not progressed to Powerpoint yet. We have an OHP and the words of songs are projected on that, and books are available for most songs too. That is about as high-tech as we get. I am excited by what can be done with APPROPRIATE technology, but do not have the skills, or the time to acquire them, to actually use them. We did buy a data projector with great hopes of learning to use it.

    1. I’m fascinated by your story, Dorothy. What do young people make of the OHP? It must be like visiting a museum for them? Some would enjoy church-as-retro-experience? As for the data projector – when you say there were hopes of learning to use it, do you mean how to switch it on, etc? Or do you mean learn how to integrate it appropriately into worship? Easter Season blessings.

  2. Wendy Lynne Efird

    Liturgical nightmare indeed! I am in the US where this technology has ended up marginalizing people who seek a more contemplative form of Worship. It is profoundly sad. I fear that the concept is evaporating, rapidly and it is profoundly sad. God bless you for keeping it alive!

  3. Lorna Harris

    nine-fold AMEN to that!

    If the church can’t be an early adopter (and I am very doubtful that as even almost early adopters, we should be texting – no pun intended – our services to one another) then don’t adopt – esp in view of the fact it will be obsolescent in about two and a half weeks after we do embrace the new thing!!!

    1. Thanks, Lorna. What you say, I think, is so important. As church we need, on the one hand, to live in our contemporary world – and so often we don’t! And IMO we should trust our tradition and what we offer and not flay about imitating other “successes” possibly at the expense of what we uniquely have to offer. Blessings.

  4. Various types of technology have been used in our church here in Tucson, AZ. Most of it used to emphasize a point being made by the pastor, which is unnecessary. It’s almost as if we’re being told that we may not be quite intelligent enough to understand the point on our own and need help.
    If I ever feel the need to see Powerpoints, etc. ad nauseum, I can always attend some really great and inspiring business meetings 🙂

    1. Thanks, LA Brown. I have, on occasions, seen the PowerPoint presentations which are different to the verbal presentation at the same time! My brain just is not clever enough to hold both together – I tended to get distracted by reading what was on the screen… Blessings.

  5. Amateurishly conceived, poorly executed, and carelessly presented media is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    A thoughtfully prepared, insightfully utilized media that is presented by a technician/operator who is well trained (read: doesn’t get distracted) can be a powerful addition to one’s worship experience.

    The devil is in the details (and execution)

    1. Absolutely, Dan. Agreed. I am all in favour of thoughtfully prepared, insightfully presented worship, whatever its format or style, by well-trained worship leaders. A central purpose of why I put so much energy into this site is to help that to happen. Easter Season blessings.

  6. Mark Hewerdine

    This is an issue we’ve discussed quite a bit at theological college – many pros but probably more cons in my view.

    A couple of thoughts: the very use of a screen, whatever is projected, affects posture in worship and how posture affects our disposition. For example, it feels odd to me to be staring up at a screen during a time of confession rather than kneeling or having head bowed.

    On the other hand, having a screen frees up the hands during worship where hymn books could be restrictive.

    Another concern is that a congregation cannot get an idea of the flow and progression of a service which they could do with a printed service booklet or card, nor can they then prepare themselves mentally for what is coming next.

    The physical focus is also directed constantly to the screen, for example, during eucharist, and the elements and gestures associated with them are perhaps ignored.

    A friend was reflecting a while ago on the older use of screens in worship: screens which separated the laity from the performance of the sacrament of communion by the priest. Perhaps our modern screens present more of a barrier to worship than a guide into and through worship…

    1. Thanks very much for your important thoughts, Mark. And blessings on your being at a theological college. In NZ the vast majority of worship leaders within the Anglican Church do not have that opportunity for reflection. Christ is risen.

    2. I sense all your concerns, except to reconsider one comment. Our 1982 liturgy aka “blue book” is fairly snakes&ladders to follow until you get the hang of it: OK it starts on the first page, but the peace may or may not happen then or until the Eucharistic Prayer; said Eucharistic Prayer may be any of 5 generic or season-specific versions; the post-communion prayer may be one specific to the day on the pew-sheet, and/or one of at least 3 stuck in the appendices. I occasionally found it tempting to get frustrated with others failing to follow which bits came from the pew-sheet and where we’d got to in the blue book. Now, done properly, a simple projected breadcrumb like a table of contents plus arrow, “we’ve got to here”, could actually flow much *smoother*.

      And turn it off altogether for prayers.

      1. When I was a parish priest, Tim, I had a simple folded A4 (4xA5) with an easy to follow outline with the responses and parts to say together. It included, unobtrusively, the page number of the Prayer Book. Those who came to a service could follow from memory, from the sheet, or from the Prayer Book. No fuss. I think I need to write that as a blog post in itself. Blessings.

    3. Aaron Jackman (@spackmanjackman)

      Completely agree Mark – I find that when I’m forced to compromise my gaze between two imposing HD screens while worshipping it becomes difficult for me to be sincere, thoughtful or present. I’m also afraid to say that the churches I’ve attended that have included such advanced technologies for worship have also used them for pointless adverts about how great the church is. But I won’t let that skew my opinion…

  7. I’ve seen service leaders stuff up parts of a service using all sorts of technology – from projectors/screen to service books or their and the congregation’s memory. I think technology gives them the option of blaming somebody else for their mistake/lack of preparation/oversight/lapse/whatever

    On a technical note for dual screen enabled display systems there are ways of seeing what is coming on powerpoint by using the presenter view on a repeat screen for the leader. Indeed there are ways of the leader remotely moving slides on and not relying on somebody at the back (but leaders equally forget to move slides on – just as when they use service books they lose their way or jump to a place the congregation isn’t expecting)

    On your play example – Unless you’re talking about services where the congregation has nothing written in front of them as its all by memory (not very friendly to newbies) I’ve never been to a play where they handed out sheets or books so we could all read the words as the actors spoke them.

    I’m with you in that projector/screen technology isn’t best suited to all forms of service.

    For myself I’m equally suspicious of an approach that means services are always done the same way

    the phrase variety is the spice of life springs to mind ….. for what its worth


    1. Thanks, “useful in parts”. Firstly, please use your ordinary name here in comments. That behind us, thanks for your comments, and your helpful suggestions.

      I have regularly seen presenters not using technology to remotely move slides on during a presentation. The presentation then ended up with a regular refrain of, “next… next slide… the next slide please…” Astonishing.

      I have written in my book Celebrating Eucharist and elsewhere on this site about responding from memory. I think friendliness to newbies as you call it lies elsewhere. We have arrived at the bizarre situation of treating everyone always as newbies. I do not believe that is the best way forward.

      That there be variety in services has always been part of our tradition. That variety is an end in itself, the spice of life – I’m not so convinced.

      Easter Season blessings.

  8. Well, I could say a great deal about this. My wife is our pastor and she purposely does not project the words of the scripture she is using for the sermon. She doesn’t want us to lose the focus on the words reading the words.

    We do put hymns,unison prayers, and the other scripture on the screen. As the back up person who runs the computer when the main person is out, I am constantly having technical issues, and yes I have sometimes not moved the slides along as I was supposed to because I was taking notes on the scripture or praying the words of the prayer, or the call to worship. Our computer person has separate PPT’s for each thing, with different backgrounds, etc., but that means they have to be opened and closed quickly as we move through the service. That doesn’t always work well.

  9. But of course, as you well know, an example of someone doing something poorly does not make it a poor choice (just as poorly led liturgy does not mean that liturgy is deficient).

    Perhaps the question is “how can this best be done?”

    Well done projection has the advantage of keeping the congregation “on the same page” without need for constant directions and can visually aid the contemplative dimension of a service.

    And while I agree that not all words of the eucharistic prayer need to be projected (as long as the cues for the responses are clear) is this really any different to handing out the script (including stage directions and a whole lot of other scripts) in the form of a prayer book?

    1. Thanks, Chris, for your helpful points. I agree with them.

      When the New Zealand Prayer Book first came out I did quite a bit of teaching about it. I would often say “Every church should have one.” And then repeat my point, “Every church should have one.” There are problems with having people with heads down and searching their way through a very complex Prayer Book. Agreed. I am not advocating solving issues with PowerPoint by introducing alternatives just as unhelpful.


  10. It sounds like the congregstion in your story is a classic example of “gimmick” technology. A system (usually REALLY expensive) is purchased and installed – then people are told something along the lines of, “We’re going to be using this to reach [insert group].” No theological reflection is done, no philosophy of communication is explored, no examination of the costs/benefits of the technology is undertaken

    As a pastor, technologist, and communicator, whenever I see this in play I say, “Bleck.”

    Now, I’m from a Baptist tradition, so we have no set history of liturgy. In my setting, the screen has been a way to get us out of our bubble and into the wider Christian tradition without needed to waste huge amounts of paper or drop a ton of money on printed materials. We’ve done this with as much wisdom as possible, because its important that we do so.

    Whenever my friends from Liturgical traditions say they want me to help the, explore adding a screen to their worship I always say the same thing, “You don’t need one, learn how to leverage the visual beauty of the worship you already have.”

    So, my response to the the possibility of having a projector in worship is, “It depends, but if you want to use one you’d better do your homework or don’t even bother.”

    1. Thank you, Wezio. We are on the same page! Hence my starting with the point that I’m no luddite. I’ve preached using an iPad. The important word I hoped to stress in my post was, “appropriate”. I appreciate your affirming other ways forward. Blessings.

  11. Something about the way you say “there’s possibly ways of incorporating digital images and contemporary technology etc. into worship” makes me worry that having that be the driving desire is to get things asinum de faciem. Technology is there to smooth the flow unobtrusively; if reliance upon powerpoint causeth the priest to stumble, cast it into outer darkness. So I’m with you on “appropriate” – better to have control over one’s tablet of choice in the pulpit.

  12. I once experimented attending a church with large congregation, which you’d think justified the use of projector screens. In practice I could only see them half the time because the lass in front thought she was a kangaroo…

  13. A few years ago we had some “emerging Church” visitors to our parish. They came to Vespers and had a discussion with parishioners afterwards, where they could ask questions and comment on the worship (see Orthodox emerging missional dialogue | Khanya and Orthodox emerging missional dialogue | Khanya).

    One of the comments was that there was “nothing digital”.

    To some extent the “Emerging Church” movement was a reaction against Neopentecostal megachurches, which seemed to specialise in gadgetry, and in the substitution of entertainment for worship (their idea of worship seems to be loud singing). But even while reacting against that background, many found it culturally strange to have worship without such appurtenances.

    Liturgy is the work of the people. It is something done by the people, not to the people, and using all this (digital) technology seems to be aimed at doing something to the people. It may be education, it may be edification, but it isn’t worship.

  14. Bosco:

    When I visited my first Episcopal church as a young adult, having come from the non-liturgical church of my youth, I felt that balancing a hymn book AND a prayer book AND a program was not only off-putting, it was silly. And why were there “service” hymns with the same numbers as regular hymns? Why did I have to flip back and forth to find prayers and different parts of the service? Why not just put everything in numeric order? It felt very much like an insider’s game to me, and anyone who couldn’t do the juggling act…well woe to them.

    I look forward to the day when the thin screen technology we currently have for our mobile devices (like Kindles and iPads) is somehow made available in a simpler, more ubiquitous form. And in this future, people can hold all the information in their hands on a simple screen, which will provide all the words and music necessary, in a logical and chronological order.

    Might not happen anytime soon, but it’ll happen.

    1. I agree, Jonathan, some have managed to make the simple incredibly complex. Trust the church! Your vision, or its currently-unimaginable alternative, will happen sooner than we think… Blessings.

  15. As the mother of two special needs children, projection is very helpful. Our hands are often quite full with squirming bodies and have no ability to leaf back and forth from program to hymnal. Sadly, I-pads would not help a lot in as the screens are very fragile and crack easily around active kids.

    1. Thanks, Regina. It would be totally inappropriate for me to offer advice or even suggestions. As I hope is clear as this discussion develops – it’s not a black/white option. How do you find the community being helpful for you? Would others in your community do the page-turning, book-holding that you speak of? Even squirming-body holding? God bless you in your taking your children to church.

  16. I recently had a discussion with two Lutheran clergy friends. When I made a rather scathing reference to power point services they rather sheepishly confessed that their Church used it, and gave some of the reasons people usually give. But in discussion it, they made one rather interesting negative point, namely the loss of the connection between what is sung in Church and the personal devotional lives of their congregants. I hadn’t known this, but apparently the Lutheran hymn book had been used both at home and at Church. But with the coming of powerpoint – and all the fluidity involved in that – this connection had been broken.

    It seems to me that it is precisely this fluidity, and a related disembodiment, that is the real issue. But then I’m Orthodox and you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near a Church with a power point screen.

  17. We wait for the day when the liturgy is twittered and FB as we go! no need for screens blocking out the table and surrounds, the multi-tones ringing in our ears of the next message coming.
    What a joy to look forward to!
    What in Jesus Christ’s name do we do this for, is it our hearts and minds listening for the word of God to enter us, the spirit to guide us, or is all now pre-ordained our thoughts and and worship are … go to go God is calling on my BB

  18. I’m currently serving a practical internship in a (wonderful) parish that is trying to move to “hands-free worship” by means of digital projection. I’m going to forward your post (and its thread) to my supervisor, Bosco, and make no further comment! (We’ve been corresponding long enough for you to guess what my thoughts are on this topic…)

  19. Stephen McGuire

    I was initially in disbelief when I started to read this post. I really thought you must be joking as I’ve yet to encounter an Episcopal church that used these devices. Then I read through the comments and I realized the practice must be more pervasive than I’d experienced in my relatively short time as an Episcopalian.

    I came to the Episcopal church from a Congregational church. One of the main reasons was the beauty of the Mass. The words, the motions, the alter, the cross…all come together to form an experience for me of worship. I work with technology all day; my mind is constantly bombarded with emails, tweets, ads, and presentations. I’m amazed and grateful for what has been developed to help us communicate. But when I go to Mass, I want to sit, stand, and kneel as I contemplate something far greater than I.

    As a newbie to TEC, I was a bit confused by the movement within the BCP and then to the hymnal (if the service had music), but I quickly caught on. My recent need for reading glasses has made the shuffling a bit more, but I still need the reflective time away from the modern “conveniences” so I can reground myself with my faith. I would go running faster than you-know-what though a goose from a church that had a PowerPoint service!

    There is generally some good in everything and in this case, being a Luddite when it comes to liturgy is a good thing.

    Best to all, and thanks for the site.

  20. I’m a little concerned about the way this thread is unfolding. This is not, can not be, a “screens are bad/low tech is good” issue. It’s a issue of theological depth in worship – and congregations are failing at that all over the liturgical spectrum. I’ve been to liturgical churches where the people serving offer no invitation to the mystery of God’s revelation in Christ, and get in the way of worship by gumming up the liturgy every bit as bad as an unreflective use of technology.

    1. What you say is true IMO, Wezio. There are many ways that we can stuff up worship. I hope that on this site our reflections help enhance worship in many ways. Blessings.

  21. Projection is so late 20th century.

    With Apple iPads, BlackBerry PlayBooks, Android whatevers, and smart phones of every sort, we can deliver a prepared service “leaflet” using PDF files for those with such devices. Save paper, personalize the service, and stop with the silly projection screens.

    1. In theory I like that idea, BUT there are two major problems. One is that it excludes people who don’t have them, for whatever reason (cost, mostly – I can’t afford a smartphone or an iPad myself, and I’m not even particularly poor – just a student. Then there are also factors such as comfort level with technology, which is often age-related).

      The other is that I find having my eyes glued to a screen is even worse for creating the feeling of being in a bubble and remote from those around me than reading a book… or maybe that’s just me?

  22. Brother David

    The only church that I attend on any regular basis that uses screens is the Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, TX, USA. I attend services there perhaps twice a year. I have never seen them used for powerpoint presentations. Most often they project what is occurring in the service so that folks can see better. During the sermon the screens are showing the preacher with only occasional cuts to text that emphasizes a point, or even less often offer a video that illustrates a point. The verses of hymns are projected when sung, as are the choruses that this congregation quietly sings during the distribution of communion.

    Everything is done very professionally by the television ministry of this congregation, which is led by a paid employee. There are three broadcast quality TV cameras in three different locations in the worship space, run by well trained volunteer camera operators.

    Thankfully I have never witnessed a powerpoint presentation at CoH. You can watch a broadcast of one of their recent services to get a gist of how they use these aids in worship.


  23. We use Power Point thoughtfully in our Episcopal Church in Wyoming, USA. We project on walls rather than screens so maybe this discussion isn’t about us, but I am going to join in anyway. 🙂

    First, people have a choice of using the Book of Common Prayer and hymnal for most services because we include the page numbers on the slides, and announce them too. Still, most people don’t pick up their books. We worked hard to come up with an arrangement where most people can see the two projected images, and to find a font size that is readable around the church. (54 is what we choose)

    One of the first things we noticed when we started experimenting was that people stand up straight rather than looking into a book or service leaflet in their laps – so they speak and sing more naturally and more loudly. That matters in a small congregation, we think. I think that has an advantage over using iPads or smartphones instead, but we haven’t experimented with those yet.

    We project most hymns. We don’t project the words to the scripture readings. Our liturgy is prepared with as much congregational response as we can do so we are not just watching slides flash by. Some members of the congregation provide photographs appropriate to the liturgical season. We use the photos to slow down the clicking, and to have a place holder while the readings are being done.

    Some worship leaders, including our musicians, prefer a printout of the slides so help keep track of what’s happening next. We also print one or more sets with 2 slides per page – our large print version.

    A member of the congregation has described our liturgy as “tidy.” This is not to say that it’s perfect – some weeks are not – but most weeks just flow smoothly.

    I’ve shared this interesting discussion with the planning group – thanks!

    1. Kay, it is, of course, impossible for me to comment significantly as I have not experienced your community; but from what I read here it sounds brilliant. You have obviously thought things through carefully and are using everything… wait for the word I’ve been hoping has been stressed enough… appropriately. Thanks so much for sharing a way that this technology can be used to enhance rather than diminish worship. Christ is risen.

      1. I’m one of Kay’s parishioners. I’m not a cradle Episcopalian; I started attending about a year and a half ago. The way we use PP in our parish was a blessing to me as a newbie and someone not familiar with the BCP or Episcopal worship. It kept me coming back. So I guess we’re proof that PP, when used appropriately, can enhance worship, especially for new worshipers.

        1. Thanks, Wendy. As I said in my comment to Kay, what she describes sounds brilliant. It is great to have your perspective on this as a “newbie”. What I think I need to do is another blog post on how to help “newbies” when a community doesn’t have/use PP. Blessings.

  24. All,

    The church I am currently at installed a projector / screen a couple of weeks before Easter Sunday – and it was put to very effective use. A good example is Good Friday where we included short clips from The Passion (just the video, no audio) – and these added to the service in a powerful way.

    Tomorrow we are going to experiment with doing the service from the screen for the first time. It isn’t a first for me, but it is for the congregation.

    A couple of other random thoughts – and yes some of these have already been made :0)

    As a musician, using a data projector allows a greater variance on music (most churches have one, maybe two different hymn books – usually at least 20 years old). However don’t forget the CCLI licence when you print things out / use the projector.

    We do jump around too much in the prayer-book – especially on feast days / seasons. This can be very confusing for visitors / first-timers. Using a screen intelligently can change this.

    Keep the controlling laptop out of sight and ensure someone reliable who knows the service is running it (kind of obviously, but I’ve seen this not happen).

    Placement of screen is important – I remember one church I visited that put it right in front of the Altar – it had to be rolled away for the thanksgiving and lowered again for the last hymn.

    Please do not put the Thanksgiving on the screen – we should be paying attention to what is happening up front. Intercessions; we should be praying our own prayers.

    The most powerful power-point slide is completely black. I’m not saying don’t use PP, I’m saying you don’t always have to have something on the screen.

    Finally, I am a professional geek. I do not have a use for a tablet/iPad and so do not have one. Technology should be used to enhance things – as soon as it gets in the way, you need to seriously reconsider why / how you are using it – and go back to the old way if necessary.

    Have a good day :0)


    1. Thanks for your helpful points, Dave. You reinforce “appropriate” with concrete examples.

      These lead to other things to remember, including your point about copyright – that includes not just words, as you indicate, but images, and in this case, a movie. In many places, the movie you mention, The Passion, is age rated, and so showing it publicly, even having got the rights to do so, would be illegal. Then there is the issue of The Passion being a controversial film amongst Christians. Common Prayer is the prayer of all – we know ahead of time what, essentially, we can expect. Is it fair to come to the Good Friday liturgy and find a film we object to?

      You say you do not put the Great Thanksgiving on the screen – at that point are the people pointed to a Prayer Book page for the responses? As you don’t put it on the screen so that people are “paying attention to what is happening up front” – are not heads in books (or pew sheets) similarly not paying attention?

      Easter Season blessings.

      1. Bosco,

        Good Friday – service was planned by curate and the priest approved. I was told copyright was fine. However I wasn’t aware of the age restriction and I have noted that down for future reference – easy enough to check :0)

        I myself am not aware of Christians having anything against the movie in question (apart from the occasional “too violent”). However I’ll also note that one down. In this case I just ran the technical stuff on the assumption the curate knew people well enough to know what would work.

        Thanksgiving. At one church I was at the person responsible for the slides would put the line before the responses on the screen. She had a 1 in 5 chance of being correct as the priest (who couldn’t see the screen) would randomly choose which thanksgiving to use (she once tried asking, it didn’t help). Apart from that the slides part ran really well. Otherwise, yes the responses do need to appear.

        I remember once watching a bishop politely tell a church full of laity licensed to help in services (and generally do deacon level tasks) to put the books down and to watch. Since it is an important part of the service, I fully agree – hence my comment about not showing the thanksgiving (except responses).

        Copyright – images … well I usually don’t see any (until yesterday). I’ll answer that one below in response to another post.

        Have a good day :0)


        1. Thanks, Dave, for your helpful points.

          You are the only one in this thread who has raised showing a movie during worship as part of the positives of this technology; different to, say a YouTube clip illustration.

          Thanks for raising this, because you have, helpfully, brought up lots of issues. The curate and parish priest whom you describe as authorising this service must have been aware of the rating of the movie, as must the person projecting the DVD. If there are persons younger than the rating present, the law has been broken.

          Were those coming to this service informed that they would be watching The Passion of the Christ? And its rating? Many people, older than the rating, would make choices about whether or not to go to a film based on its rating. For example, even though they are over 16, they would not choose to go to a film rated R16 because of its violence.

          The Passion of the Christ is controversial. It is supported by a particular part of the Christian spectrum. It presents a particular approach to our salvation, it uses the private visions of the stigmatic German nun Anne Catherine Emmerich as a primary source, it weighs in apportioning blame on the Jews, its imaging of the demonic is much discussed, and so on. In short it is the private project of Mel Gibson and his disturbed religious perspectives.


          1. Bosco,

            The two clips from the movie shown were both less than 5 minutes long – and no audio was played. However, yes, the second clip would have been rated MA. For the record there was no-one there under the age of 20. Neither of the clips showed any potentially arguable theology (as far as I am aware anyway :0) Also I am sure the clergy would have ensured dodgey theology wasn’t included.

            Dave :0)

  25. Today Wendy and I told our congregation about the discussion here on your blog. As a result, you are all invited to visit St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Casper, Wyoming to see us in action! There was also a discussion about a pilgrimage to New Zealand – we would bring the projectors and slides.

    We currently project the Great Thanksgiving, and the topic is still under discussion. We tried projecting just responses but it is harder for the person running the slides to know when to click. For now, we think we like projecting the whole service. I am just guessing that the number of people who watched the action at the altar when we were using only prayer books has not changed – some people just prefer to follow the words.

    I wonder how Dave B’s service went this week.

    Thanks to all for the conversation.

    1. Thanks, Kay. I look forward to my visit to you 🙂 And yours here 🙂

      I’m not sure I understand the Great Thanksgiving responses issue:
      1) If the “person running the slides” has the full text – why would it be an issue?
      2) Alternatively, once the responses on the screen have been “used”, couldn’t the “person running the slides” click to the next slide so that the next response with its cue is sitting up there but without the whole rest of the full text?


    2. Kay,

      It was … well, interesting. As indicated above I’ve been to churches that have used screens – some well, some not so well.

      The overheads were put together by the priest. Almost second slide was a picture of a vineyard somewhere in the world (Gospel as per lectionary – John 15:1-8). However every second slide was overkill – this got in the way and a couple of times the volunteer laptop controller got a couple of slides behind at one point. Apparently the pictures were from sites that allowed free use – I didn’t get a chance to ask further.

      The controller did have a printout of the slides, however when they went up to read the 2nd reading I took over temporarily and noticed that the gradual was missing from the print out. This then left me as musician wondering. Fortunately it was just missing from the print-out.

      The controller is used to presenting with a projector, but not doing it with a service. hence some page changes were too early or too late while they “acclimatised”. I find the best time to change is the start of the last word – I’m not sure about other people.

      Also, I was given a “service sheet” which basically had the full service. Not seeing a need for it I put it down somewhere – and the controller was using that instead of the slide print-out at one stage and so we had to do the second part of a prayer by memory.

      Last hymn, the priest chose a tune that wasn’t going to work with that congregation, but had lines repeated, which the tune I used didn’t … once I realised I stopped playing and started singing loudly instead – after a verse or two people worked it out :0)

      Most of it I will put down to inexperience. I am not aware of any complaints (the priest did explain at the beginning of the service that this was so we didn’t have to juggle books). We will keep trying for a few weeks, and see how we go.

      … and the thanksgiving just had just the responses – separated by pictures of vineyards!

      Have a good day :0)


  26. I take a shot at these, given I’ve controlled slides for worship.

    1) It’s an attention thing – people are often reading the slides, and when there is only one half of a conversation it’s easier to get lost, particularly if you take your eyes off the screen (say, to look at the altar)

    2) Putting words up on the screen creates a sense of immediacy. When words are up there a ways before they need need to be interacted with they become a distraction – people will pay more attention to when they need to be said because the pause in flow doesn’t match the medium. This is why a blank screen, or title slide, are wonderful tools. They tell people, “There is nothing to see here, shift your focus elsewhere please.”

    1. Thanks, Wezlo. I think you are underscoring the issue, rather than the solution IMO. If you write the word “green” in red letters; “blue” in green letters, etc. and ask someone to quickly run down the list saying what colour they are seeing, most will reply not with the colour, but with the word written. If worship is to engage all our senses, there is a danger of focusing on the words. Western Christianity has been words-dominated in any case. This is increasing that unhelpful direction. IMO. Blessings.

    2. Our group (and your mileage may vary) decided that the person running the clicker needs to be reading on the screen with the group. If the clicker is reading the book to see when to click, it is easy to get ahead of or behind the right slide.

      As I said earlier, we do print the entire show for some worship leaders who prefer it- but others prefer not to have their heads stuck in a notebook trying to keep up.

      So for now – and because this is an evolving project, maybe not forever – we have the words to everything on the screen.

  27. I agree Western worship is overly fixated on words, It needs to recapture an appreciation for beauty. But I’m not sure how the screen is any worse than a prayer book at that point.

    I don’t typically recommend liturgical churches to add a screen, but if they do I’d recommend putting both parts of the responses on screen, clearly formatted and beautiful in a minimalist sense.

    The reason for this is because people ARE tied to the idea of following words and seing both parts of the responses. It gives people a easier way to refereince where they are after looking away (again, to see the Altar in a high Chuch setting) and come back into participation after looking away. Perhaps the words themselves can be made beautiful, and subvert the very point you bring up.

    1. Yes, Wezlo, I’m not enthusiastic about people having heads in books. I do think that words on a screen are more intrusive. Most of worship I would not have my head in a book, and can choose to do so in a community where others choose to have their heads in a book. When there is a screen with words on it present, try as I might, I’m drawn back to the words.

      Yes, of course, “both parts” of a response need to be on the screen – I was meaning the practice of having the full words of, say, the Eucharistic Prayer on the screen. Why would we need those on a screen?


      1. Yes, for times like that a blank screen or a title slide with appropriate image(s) are better than words. I wrestle a bit with that for Scripture readings. I’d rather people just listen to the Scripture, but if there aren’t words on the screen they don’t pay attention because there’s nothing going on to keep focus. The Eucharistic prayer, on the other hand, has so much associated with it that people can be drawn in to the mystery.

        You’re “I do think…” comment is a key point which shows how people can be wired differently. When words are on the screen I tend to focus more. When I’m reading out of a book I tend to be all over the place – in the margins, in the next reading, ect. There are too many, “Oh look at that!” moments in books for me.

        I’m absolutely loving this conversation….

        1. Yes, Wezlo, it is great there are all these different points being drawn into this conversation. I wonder if you, personally, have quite a focus on “eyes”. So people, you say, don’t pay attention to a reading “because there’s nothing going on”. We’ve just been talking about the ministry of proclaiming the scriptures. Is it also possible that in a “screen” community a dependency develops which affects times when the screen is not being used (eg. during the readings)? The feeling to me might be like a TV-dominated living room that changes in feeling when it is switched off? Blessings.

          1. Yes, it absolutely true that I have a focus on the eyes. For a couple of reasons. First, I’m a visual person – I tend to think in pictures. Second, vision and sell are the two least-utilized senses in low-Church Protestant worship – and if I tried to introduce incense I might create a riot.

            The living room analogy is apt, keeping in mind that my “screened community” is The United States of America. Screen dependency was the norm here before I was born, and I’ve been impressed with neither the “we’re going to be counter-cultural by having no visuals” (of any sort ever sat through Baptist worship, it can be torture) nor the “We’ll make it BETTER than TV” crowd (also, torture). I’m trying to speak a “language” which people understand, while subtly subverting it at the same time. It is tricky, but it’s been helpful in THIS context.

          2. Thanks, Wezlo. For my sermon on Monday I sorely needed a screen to explain something. In the event I emailed my point (a mathematical one) to all in my community, and have been walking around with the illustration on me. Although, with this discussion in the back of my mind of course, I missed the screen [remember I noted, in the classroom, I’m very wizz-bang, top-end of the technology possibilities] the result of people struggling to “get” my sermon illustration is that it has now become the topic of the week around the place. Which is great. Blessings.

  28. I’ve been following this discussion with some interest because of the growing cultural divide over what “worship” is. But it seems that, unless I have misunderstood it myself, most of the comments seem to miss the point, which is not how such technology should be used in worship, but why it should be used.

    I think such technology can be useful for instruction, but if used in worship it risks turning worship into instruction, and overthroweth the nature of liturgy.

    But perhaps the day is coming when the digital projector will be displayed among the other liturgical objects those little books for explaining to children and newcomers what is a chalice and what is a paten. I’ve already seen a Greek book that includes the microphone among such objects, as if the Liturgy could not be performed without it, not even in the smallest church.

    On the other hand I knew a priest (now a bishop) who replaced all the electric ikon lamps in his church with oil ones. The electric lamps, he said, made the church look like “a whore’s bedroom”.

    1. I wondered about the “why” question today. I ended up with a list of promises and costs for prayer books, service bulletins, projected services, and services on a handheld device (which I haven’t tried yet, but am thinking about off and on.)

      My lists (which I am not up to typing tonight) include tradeoffs between tradition, flexibility, cost. They all had the beauty of liturgical worship in common. One thing that I noticed: prayer books, service bulletins, and handheld devices all have people looking down – projected services have people looking up. In all cases, people are looking at something.

      I recently attended a workshop co-sponsored by All Saints Company (http://www.allsaintscompany.org/) which included some work with paperless music. That leads me to thinking about paperless worship – wondering how we could do Anglican worship without books or projectors. Thoughts?

  29. One of the reasons that I am an advocate for the planned, thoughtful use of projection is that it can allow greater inclusion for groups that often get left out of the worship planning process; new participants and people with disabilities. New participants get a “you-are-here” pointer for each new element of the service, without having to search through a worship book or written order of service. It is easier for them to fall into the established rhythms of the community without feeling awkward.

    My biggest concern though, is for people with disabilities. One of our 80-year-old members thanked me yesterday (I run the slides during worship) because it helps her to know where we are, even though she has trouble hearing. Worship has so often centered on auditory experience that people who are Deaf or who have hearing loss are left out. It’s very isolating. For some of our members who have limited cognitive capabilities, a visual cue is also very important. We still have a printed order of service (and large print copies) for those who can’t see well or just prefer the printed version. The more ways we can make worship accessible for ALL people, the better. Projection is one tool in that toolbox that helps in a variety of ways.

    1. Thanks, Shawn, for these thoughtful points. You highlight another point that would be worth a whole new thread – actually having new participants and people with disabilities involved in the worship planning stage. Blessings.

  30. I am an IT geek and have spent most of my adult life behind screens, but I find the use of screens during worship distracting at best.

    Technology in general is supposed to make things more “simple & convenient” for users…but I find the opposite effect has occurred in many ways, with more gadgetry comes more distraction, more “busy time”, more fiddling, more noise, more “connectivity”, more “tech” issues, more…

    I come to a worship space to disconnect from all this…to hear the voice of the Lord in the silence and in the spaces, away from the “conveniences” of our modern lives.

    Our Cathedral offers an order of service for those that need (also large-print version) that includes the words and basic melody of the hymns, along with all of the Liturgical elements, so flipping through the BCP isn’t necessary, but is available for those that like it that way.

    1. Thanks, Kine. My context seems very similar to that. I am constantly using latest-technology and my community is also at the technological cutting edge; but when we regularly meet for worship there are the invitations to be still, simplify, and pause. A lot is by heart – and those words can come to mean by heart. Blessings.

  31. I feel I’m coming rather late to the thread with a monster comment, but here’s my two-penny-worth anyway 🙂

    I’m something of a Luddite when it comes to worship too, and as an Anglo-Catholic I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience of the use of screens and power point. My first experience was pretty bad, as it involved the entire Eucharistic prayer text being projected up, and even if you disregard the major issue of it distracting from the liturgical action, the first rule of Power Point is _don’t read from your slides_.

    But I have seen it used well, interestingly enough both times in an “alternative worship” context. I suspect this is because, as it was a special service, lots of care was taken over it, but also because it wasn’t ‘routine.’ In both cases text was only used sparingly.

    The first service was a Tenebrae service, done with a youth group (who had been involved in planning the service), and used carefully chosen photographs – I believe either taken by one of the organisers, or under ‘creative commons’ to accompany music and some of the readings. The service also used drama, and periods of prayer where there were no images – I think it helps not to use the screen all the time, or people tend to either switch off or become passive. The only difficulty was the screen, which was intrusive visually – the only place to site it was in the crossing, and though no-one actually needed to see the altar (the ‘hearse’ was also in the crossing) it looked a bit ugly.

    The other occasion was a rosary group, where the images appropriate to the mystery were projected on to a handy wall (while it’s unfortunate that the chapel in question has no east window, it does occasionally have its advantages). My feeling is that PP (or similar) can be great for images, but words are more problematic. There’s an access issue, too – I’ve heard old people complain that the screen is too hard to read, not because of the font size, but because it’s too faint (admittedly there are access issues with books, too, but there are easier solutions there).

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