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High Tech Worship?

Quentin Schultze, a professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, has written a thoughtful, clear and helpful introduction to the subject of using electronic projections in worship. High Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely is filled with probing questions, practical suggestions and pointed anecdotes about what really happens in churches as they attempt to utilize new forms of technology.

Integrating technology into worship must be done with a clear understanding of how the two can complement or compete with each other. Schultze begins appropriately with a focus on the worship side of the equation. Worship is “a dialogic form of communication between God and God’s people,” he says, and all elements of the service, whether new or ancient, should contribute to this holy interchange.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Schultze has great concern over the impact of new technologies on the liturgy of worship. All churches have a liturgy, either recognized and made explicit or unnamed and yet just as powerful. (If you think this is not true in a “non-liturgical” church, try moving the offering within the service or eliminating the public invitation!)
 
But Schultze examines the appropriateness and impact of visual projections on the eight “liturgical non-negotiables” that lie at the heart of Christian worship. Those in the more explicitly liturgical camp will resonate with Schultze’s comments throughout the book. Others will need to look beyond his vocabulary and discover the connections with their own traditions.
 
Schultze explores eight typical rationales for using projection technologies in worship, starting with the most popular: “We want to keep our young people interested in worship.” It would be helpful for any church, whether anticipating or already using projections, to identify their own rationale, but Schultze’s comments seem accurate and balanced.
 
Schultze spends several chapters addressing technological, architectural and financial challenges. His observations from a large number of churches are instructive. Numerous sidebars offer helpful bullet-style lists, such as: “Causes of Presentational Distraction and Awkwardness” or “Typical Costs of Presentational Technologies.” He rightly points out that there are human costs, such as training and planning, which must be considered if quality is to be achieved.
 
This book is helpful for those who are considering the incorporation of visual projections in worship. It offers some insights for those who occasionally wonder “What have I gotten myself into?”
 
Schultze does not attempt to give a detailed description of current technologies, which would be a futile and immediately out-dated attempt. He does correctly warn churches against a “one size fits all” approach.
 
As a regular technology user, I would have welcomed more detailed comments from a professor of communications about effective versus ineffective presentations.
 
“People issues,” such as training, proper utilization of software and planning/production, are an important and often overlooked component in creating effective projected worship aids. Greater help in these areas is needed also.
 
But Schutlze is an astute observer of the contemporary scene. His experiences in a wide range of churches give authenticity to his perspective.
 
The greatest value of the book may be his probing comments about the larger issues involved in incorporating visual technologies into worship.
 
David Benjamin is pastor of King’s Cross Church in Tullahoma, Tenn.
 
Order High Tech Worship? from Amazon.com.