Concordia Seminary, St. Louis:
In chapel this week—in mid-August, chapel is held in the undercroft
because the only students on campus are those finishing Summer Greek—the
liturgist did something I have not seen heretofore: he led the liturgy
from an electronic “tablet.” What, as someone has said, does this mean? (emphasis added)
It is almost routine to find congregations without hymnals, whether they project on the screen or print everything out on paper. It is less common to find the use of an electronic missal by those who lead the liturgy. It is certainly the direction of the future. I am not without some sadness here.
I have complained before that the altar book of LSB is too dang thick and that it was foolishness to let this slip by in the form it is. Surely it would not have been that difficult or costly to increase the size of the page and make the book thinner as well as larger to encompass all the material in the altar book. I have also complained that our altar books and lectionaries do not have covers suitable for the content and holy purpose of these books. But these are other issues. While I know the shortcomings of the books themselves, the shift to an electronic format is not a good thing.
While ease of use may be a benefit for an electronic form of the altar book and lectionary, it is not necessarily all that much easier. For one thing, it is not as easy to keep multiple bookmarks and to turn from page to page as is necessary. Second, with any electronic device, user errors, glitches, and power issues are more likely to happen than not. Finally, there is something lost when the permanence of a book is replaced with a tablet that implies something temporary. A congregation will likely purchase only one set of lectionary and altar books in the life of the hymnal. There is something symbolically important about the use of that book over the years as well as the carrying of these books in the liturgy.
Technology is not always an advance. In this case, just because we can is not a good enough reason to put aside the printed altar book and lectionaries and replace them with an electronic version.