In my former parish we invested in a 10′ x 10′ screen and projection equipment to use as a worship aide for mass. Back in 2010, when we began to use it, there were no “best practice” resources available for us. As a result, a lot of what we learned was by trial and error. There were wordy slides, garish colors and superfluous projection of rote phrases. It was difficult to promote any objective aesthetic because there was no resource except the loudest opinion.
I became frustrated and I began to see the screen as a monster, a liturgical King Kong, if you will. The well-meaning parishioners who were enthusiastic about this unchartered liturgical frontier took their efforts seriously and took feedback sometimes too personally. We lacked a common paradigm.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who, in the course of ministry, had involuntarily inherited the complexities of an elaborate liturgical support technology system. We agreed that it can be beneficial in many circumstances. Too often, however, the predicating factors for implementation, (i.e., “its good for the kids,”) create a ministry whose purpose ultimately detracts from communal celebration. If the aforementioned factors are not carefully evaluated, glaringly perceptible RGB signs have potential to dominate the eyes. An overpowerring visual sign depreciates the liturgical esteem of other senses: especially smell and touch. By the end of my tenure at my NY parish, it seemed to me that the over-usage of technology was eroding the intuitive, socially inclusive and dare-I-say sensual nature of communal expression of desire for God’s presence.
Although the recent discussion with my friend confirmed our shared frustrations, I have also witnessed some outstanding instances where technology is a nearly indispensible enhancement to liturgical experience. One parish in my diocese particularly comes to mind. In their case, trained team members and modestly sized display monitors appropriate technology cohesively, effectively, and appropriately support assembly engagement. They use a monochromatic color scheme and clear, simple fonts. Their system affirms that appropriate use of technology expands our liturigical possibilities.
But what exactly is “appropriate” use of technology in liturgy? At least in the United States, we don’t have a defining document for technology and worship. We can’t get there if we hold back in fear, but I don’t think we should blindly run forward.
In hindsight, this could have been a great opportunity to open the liturgical advancements of the Second Vatican Council to members of my old parish, many of whom had a devotional and even tridentine expression of spirituality. We didn’t really talk about song as a powerful mnemonic for evangelization , we just put a bunch of hymns & responses on slides. We didn’t talk about art, calligraphy, light, color and proportions. We sure enough didn’t talk about literacy, how the liturgy of the Church as outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium ever so subtly acknowledges that literacy is not a universal given, and that the presumption of literacy actually draws a dividing line, especially in a place like Queens, where English was often the common denominator but not the first language. The use of our screen brought so many liturgical issues to the foreground. We could have explored Sacrosanctum Concilium, Sing to the Lord, Living Stones and if we wanted to live stream, Inter Mirifica.
My current pastor wants us to start using the video monitors for announcements. I hope that if we get a tech ministry going in my parish, we might be able to use the monitors to support music ministry as well. I also hope that we will be able to avert some of the mistakes we made in my former parish. Founded on these hopes, I did some research for a proposal I brought to our diocesan liturgical commission. The desired outcome would be to establish some regional best practices as part of a committee.
I thought the document linked below confirmed many of my own opinions and fact-findings. It comes from Australia and it is very well-done. Does anyone know of any other diocesan documents like this one?