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Screens in the Sanctuary!

It's been a month since we installed our new projection system in the sanctuary. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Large numbers of people have expressed to me how much they like the system. Our young people absolutely love it. However, a few people who attend the 11:00 service have expressed concerns about the system. Although these folks are definitely the minority opinion, I take their opinion very seriously. Everyone's opinion at LFUMC matters—even when their opinion differs from mine! So I want to take this opportunity to share with you the history, rationale, and plans for our projection ministry.

First, a bit of HISTORY. Our church began talking about projection almost five years ago. Although many on the worship committee and staff wanted to plunge right in, we moved extremely slowly. We continued to discuss the subject for two additional years. Next, we purchased a portable system. Over the next two years, we occasionally used it in our worship services with great response. Finally, about four months ago, the trustees, finance committee, and the entire church council unanimously approved a permanent projection system as part of the "What's Next?" planning process. The decision to place projection in our sanctuary has been a five-year long, thoughtful process, fully approved by all levels of church leadership.

Second, let me explain the RATIONALE behind our projection system. I could list more than a dozen good reasons for using projection in worship. For example, several people have commented that they can now see the words to the songs. They could not read the small print in the hymnal and are delighted that they can now see and sing. We've also noticed that congregational singing is better since people are now looking up while singing rather than looking down. We're also saving money by using projection. Since we don't have to print the words to the 8:30 songs, we can use the same bulletin at both services, saving more than one thousand dollars per year in print and paper costs. However, the primary rationale for using projection is that we live in a visual age. American culture is now a visually orientated culture. Television and computers have changed the way we process information. People now need to hear and see messages to comprehend and retain communication. The church cannot ignore this huge shift in communications. We've moved from a print society to a technological society. To effectively communicate the gospel, we must use the primary medium of our day—which is high-tech. Although we must never change the message of our faith, we must continually change the methods we use to share our faith. Churches that do not use modern methods to communicate the gospel (projection, Web sites, contemporary music, etc.) are steadily declining and will eventually die. Virtually all growing churches use projection. In fact, 62 percent of all American churches now use projection in their worship services. And that number is rapidly growing in spite of occasional conflicts over placing screens in the sanctuary. By the way, it's interesting to note that almost everything we consider "traditional" today—like hymns, hymnbooks, choirs, robes, pianos, organs, and even grape juice for communion—were once new, controversial, and hotly debated. So current debates about modern worship methods like projection and praise choruses are certainly not new in the life of the church.

Finally, let me share our PLANS for using projection at First Church. In the early service, we will heavily use our new screens. Contemporary worship, to be effective, requires a liberal use of projection. At the late service we will use projection but far less than we do at 8:30. For example, we will project song lyrics at 11:00 for those who struggle to see the hymnal. Of course, if you prefer, you can certainly use the hymnal. We will also use projection on a limited basis to support the sermons visually. For example, we'll project pertinent Scripture verses, listening guides, and other visual aids that support the message. Occasionally, we will project a brief movie clip that helps reinforce the theme. Such use of the visual arts continues a long and noble history of the church using the arts (music, instruments, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, banners, etc.) to support the worship of God. Although I seldom use movie clips, when a poignant scene can support the biblical message, I'll gladly use it in the service of the gospel. In summary, we plan to use projection at 11:00 but not nearly as much as we do at 8:30.

I'm excited about our new projection system, as well as our lighting and sound improvements. I believe they are important tools in the worship of God. Thank you again for your overwhelming affirmation of our new system. If you are one of the few who don't like the new screens, I hope you will tolerate them for the sake of those who are more media orientated. I hope to see you Sunday for the worship of God. It's great to be your pastor!

(Authors Note: A few months after this newsletter article was printed, we began to use projection at the 11:00 service, just as much as we did at the early service, with no controversy. Today the use of projection is a major part of our worship culture. In fact, during recent listening sessions with the congregation, people listed media in worship as one of our strengths. Our senior adults were especially complementary of visual aids in worship. The handful of people who opposed screens now enjoy them with the rest of the congregation.)

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