Data Projectors & Screens
One change that we put to use in our church in the fall of 2021 was to use our data projector every week. We have used a data projector occasionally for a few years, and our hall has needed to have one to allow our users to show slides and movies. Of course we have had a projector screen up in church for many years, and have used an overhead projector (OHP) at times. In other words this is nothing new. But what we are doing with it is something new. There is a new wave of using it liturgically happening, which is a fundamental shift for the church.
So how did we use the screen in church before? Maybe we used to illustrate a sermon or a talk, or even create slides of the main points. I still have clear sheets which I can print on and put in an OHP. For at least 30 years we have had the capacity to put the words of songs up on an OHP, and many churches do this. It eliminated the need for a hymn book and enabled people to sing the latest songs. Occasionally we have put up special liturgical words, a collect or some prayers that we wanted all to see and join in.
We could do all of this in the 1990’s. And of course data projectors have been around for 15 years or more. Nothing is new here. But somehow we didn’t really start to use it until recently. We liked our books, our BAS; our Common praise hymn books and our bulletin sheets.
Then came Covid, and when we returned to in-person worship we wanted to be cautious so we stopped using all of those books (even though we know Covid spreads through the air). We put the service, hymns, sermon images and even the announcements all into one set of powerpoint slides. I expected a few grumbles, but nobody complained. In fact the feedback was all positive. I just had to make the text big enough for all to see!
We found that putting the service on a data projector was easy. It saved us having to produce a printed bulletin, with the associated cost to the environment. And people were now getting the bulletin emailed to them each week – which was far more convenient. We found that putting hymns on the data projector gave more flexibility: we could choose hymns from anywhere and easily edit the verses. We could illustrate any part of the service. We could choose prayers from a variety of sources, like the new collects. We could use the new psalm translations.
Among the things I have realised about this change in our worship is how it removes elitist elements from our worship. We no longer expect people to be able to use the very complicated BAS layout, keeping multiple pages open. They had to do that alongside using the hymns book and a bulletin. This required people to be highly literate. The hymnal was another elitist book. Most of the editions of common praise I see in Canadian churches are music copies. Yet the vast majority of the general population cannot read music. The shift to data projectors has made our worship significantly more accessible to outsiders.
But my favorite feature of the data projector is that people’s attention is no longer in their books, but on the screen. I like seeing peoples faces and with a data projector there is a different sense of engaging in worship with others.