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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