Historically in American Protestantism, the worship experience has been largely an oral one. We listen…to scripture read, to prayers offered, to a sermon proclaiming the Word. We do some reading…and speaking as we share in unison prayer or in responsive readings. Some people like to read the scripture while the liturgist is reading it. The sacraments introduce a somewhat different sensory experience…with the tasting of bread and cup…or the visual sense of water being used in baptism. But for the most part, traditional Protestant worship is mainly an oral experience. We do a lot of listening.
One of the books I delved into during my 2018 sabbatical time is called Think Like a Filmmaker by Marcia McFee, one of the leading resource people in the nation for churches in what she calls “multi-sensory” worship.
The church today has begun to reclaim the power of the arts and to practice them
in ever-more-complex ways. This is not just the latest worship trend to entice
worshipers to church. Underlying the embrace of multiple art forms—what I call
“sensory-rich” worship—as proclamation of the Word are some of the latest theories
in effective communication, learning styles, and the science of memory and formation.
“Unforgettable messages” are the result of taking our God-given diversity seriously,
especially as it pertains to the myriad ways our bodies experience the world, take in
and process information, and assimilate those messages into the fabric of our lives
We have experimented semi-regularly over the last 20 years with this concept, utilizing drama, mime, dance, diverse musical genres, choral and multi-voice reading, even painting within the context of morning worship. Utilizing multiple sensory experiences takes planning and careful execution. This means that we offer these experiences when we have a well-conceived idea and the proper time to plan for it.
Much has been written about the changes that have occurred as a result of the advent of the digital age—how we receive and process information, how ubiquitous screens and visual imagery have become in our lives, how younger people (digital natives) are having a completely different learning environment and experience than previous generations. Much has also been written about how these changes are affecting the church and the experience of worship.
Your leadership has been working toward the possibility of a Capital Campaign for 2020-2022. One of the principal components of this deliberation has been the installing of video projection technology in the sanctuary, giving us new opportunities to utilize visual imagery as part of the worship experience. This technology is not inexpensive…and is something that needs to be done right. As your pastor (even though I am kind of old!), I am convinced that Southminster needs to be able to utilize this technology as we look to the next decade or more in ministry together. If you would like to speak further with me about this subject, I welcome the opportunity. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more detailed information about the proposed Capital Campaign in the next two months.
Grace and Peace,