Projection Screens in Churches: Musings on the Sign and the Thing Signified
It has long been my practice that the first thing I do when I walk into a church sanctuary or chapel is scan the walls for projection screens. Though my preferences have changed rather markedly over the years, I’ve found such screens to be good indicators of what’s to come. When I was a child and a teenager their presence excited me. They signaled a church that had departed from dead tradition, monotonous hymns, and a church culture geared for the elderly. A projector was a welcomed sight. It suggested that the innate boredom of a church service would be mitigated. I was able to let my guard down and be a little more comfortable. Now in my mid-20s, when I catch sight of one I shudder, following by an immediate bracing for a couple hours of pure annoyance.
My wick for low church worship forms has been completely burned up. 25 years of low church evangelicalism will do that, especially when one’s adolescent years were spent within Pentecostalism–evangelicalism’s more potent and concentrated form. I’m weary of singers who awkwardly stand on a stage as though they were performing a concert, people-centered songs that emphasize people’s experience in worshiping rather than the God who is being worshiped, “special music” that guilts people into giving money, preachers who mislead people as they rant and rave with half-truths and use youtube clips in a ploy to be culturally relevant, altar calls that emotionally manipulate people into psychological frenzies, evangelistic spiels that miss the point that a Sunday morning worship service is for believers, architecture and decor that are so utilitarian as to lack almost any aesthetic/artistic value that both points to God and reflects His creative nature, rambling prayers that are just, well, supposed to be, just, like, more sincere because they are just, you know, just spontaneous, and, most of all, the pep rally feel where it seems the implicit purpose is to pump the Christians up on some sort of church camp-like high in order to defeat the devil in the upcoming week’s football game of life. Such things long-ago chafed my soul to the point of… well, I don’t know what is past exasperation, but whatever it is that’s where I’m at. Any suggestions for the word?
By contrast, I’m desperate for high church services. I long for contemplative saturation in God’s Word, communal recitation of creeds as was the norm for the first 18 centuries of Church history, sacramental worship that unites Christians in the Eucharist and reminds believers of Christ’s redeeming death, and an overall atmosphere that confronts the excesses of our hyperactive culture and, instead, offers a sense of peace, serenity, mediation, calm, and overall sense of “otherness.” These things relieve my angst and provide spiritual peace. You’ll hear no denial from me that I’m still regularly bored in such environments, but when given the choice between boredom and annoyance I’ll go with the former every time.
Is it possible that a high church worship service would use a projector screen effectively? Yeah, I suppose. But I’m not sure I’d want them to. I’m down with Christianity Unplugged.