Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Streaming Worship With Imagery

In the months before the Virus became news and affected church activities and worship services, I'd noticed a few things about church use of screens, projectors and the display of content.  It seemed there were four kinds of churches: those who did not use screens at all, and who continued to provide worship that at times felt to me the way it was done back in the 1960's (lots of music and sermons without visual illustration); churches who had installed screens but weren't using them; churches who were using visuals in worship to project hymn lyrics and words to prayers; and churches displaying lyrics and liturgies, as well as adding photography and art as a visual enhancement to sermons.

A few months ago I attended a university-sponsored program that featured four professors, each of whom took full advantage of a projector and a large screen to provide ample visual illustration of their content.  Not only did they provide readable summaries of their main points, but they provided pictures, logos, graphs and symbols that helped move their presentations along.

What I thought would be a long hour and a half of verbal presentations became a fast-moving, content-filled evening.  The speakers were able to capture the audience's attention and help us comprehend their material quickly, through the use of colorful, engaging, and informative visuals. 

The presentations were informative, persuasive, visually pleasurable, and memorable. I wished clergy had been present to see the possibilities for how they too could use projector and screen to enhance their messages.

This was before the Virus hit.  Now we're in a completely different situation.  Churches are closing their doors to protect members from a spreading virus. Worship services have been cancelled, and some congregations are moving services to video streaming platforms like Facebook, and recorded video to platforms like YouTube.

Ironically, all those churches are now using screens, the screens of our computers and mobile devices, to share their messages.  Yet the content is presented in a usual way: we watch a lone pastor present a verbal message against the visual backdrop of a worship sanctuary.  If the church has a screen behind the pastor, it's blank.

It'd be nice if the pastor could add some visuals to that screen, but now there is a problem: the legal protections in place for materials shown during a service of worship are not extended to a broadcast, live or recorded, without permission from the owners of the material.

My suggestion is that those clergy who wish to add visual interest to their streaming and/or video recordings of a worship service do so by projecting their own original material, and/or that created by church members who have given their permission for such use. Original prayers you have written, and imagery you own (for example, photographs taken to illustrate the content of a message) may be displayed on the screen during a broadcast.

Adding imagery to worship does take a little extra time, but it can be as simple as taking your own pictures or even drawing 3-5 images to help lead your message along.  Enlist others in the congregation to do this for you, and you'll continue to engage members of your congregation as you co-create worship materials while in isolation.

I wish you well as you plan and provide worship, while meeting the challenges of designing streaming/recorded worship that captures attention while being visually interesting, easily understood, persuasive, and memorable.