Moving Worship: The Liturgical Potential of Digital Media

by Matthew Koh, co-editor-in-chief

The projector and screen has become something of a mainstay at churches—I can’t remember the last church I went to that didn’t have them. Yet, I’m willing to bet that most of us barely even think about the screen. We see the lyrics for songs, an announcement or two, maybe the occasional video, but for the most part we don’t really think of the projection seen as part of the service.
Doug Porter, husband of seminarian Jane Porter, is trying to get his church, Sherman Street CRC, to rethink the potential of the projector and screen.
Hence, Moving Worship, a project to explore the use of digital media to enhance worship and the community life of the church.
“A lot of the uses of the projection have to do with communicating information,” Porter said. “We want to explore its liturgical uses.”
Porter, who has made video art in the past, saw the possibility with the screen up there of bringing video and photographical elements which don’t just put the congregation in the position of spectator, but draw them into the service emotionally.
Moving Worship is funded by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, which requires the project to be a learning experience involving groups, to be sharable with other congregations, and to have some kind of emphasis on using Psalms.
Moving Worship has two prongs. One is to develop skills among people in the congregation, training them in the use of digital equipment and increasing their savvy with using that equipment.
Edwin De Jong, photojournalist will be leading a session on October 13th, from 10:30am–noon at Sherman Street, on “How to Conduct an Effective Interview”.
The second prong follows the model of Eileen Crowley, Associate Professor of Liturgy and Worship Arts at Catholic Theological Union. The idea behind her model, called “communal co-creation”, is that the church as a whole would get involved in the use of the projector and screen which would be seen as part of ministry.
Along those lines, Moving Worship is assembling a multigenerational group, with members of different levels and kinds of skills and technical abilities, to plan an Easter Season. The group will investigate different texts and images and see if they can put together videos and pictures that will enhance worship in the season.
Moving Worship will also develop a “SWAT team” which will respond to the needs of the congregation within a short time frame (for instance, if the Sunday School wanted a video put together for a presentation).
There are two events scheduled for this semester. One, next Saturday, October 6th, features the Worship Institute’s Elizabeth (Betsy) Steele Halstead who will talk about the value and importance of the visual elements in worship. Her session is entitled “Worshipping with Open Eyes” and will be from 10:30am to 2pm, with a free lunch included.
Register at: http://www.shermanstreetchurch.org/movingworship.
The second event will a workshop by Eileen Crowley on November 3rd, which will include a Photo Walk, where participants will get into small groups to walk around and take pictures.
Seminarians are more than welcome to join. Who knows? You may start to see your church’s screen as more than just a digital bulletin board.