Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An immersive video experience. . .

It was one of those free magazines that has an article or two but exists mainly to showcase products for churches (convincing the reader that one cannot exist without those products).  I don't know when I got it or why I did not toss it away but I was put on hold one day and reached for something to peruse while I waited.  This magazinad was nearby.

Apparently an arson attack on a Lutheran congregation in the state of Washington destroyed the building and its AVL (audio, video, and lighting) set up.  In rebuilding, they were able to obtain an even more immersive audio video experience than ever before.  While the article did not really tell me much, the photos did.  The congregation uses its walls as screens and blankets the walls with video projection from no less than four HD projectors.

The photos showed the altar and pulpit with a video background that looked like stone walls and stained glass windows and then with the landscape of the city at night (buildings and landscape all lit up).  My assumption here is that the congregation can literally paint whatever landscape it wants across the walls.  Such is the power of the technology available that it is no longer limited to screens.  In fact, judging by the photos in the article, the images are painted from floor to ceiling and from one end of the building to another.

The article was really selling the brand of projector but in doing so it gave me pause to think about how this power to image literally anything could be used for ill just as much as it might be used for good.  Underneath it all is this somewhat sobering assumption.  The bottom line is that there is no permanent image in this congregation's worship space -- only the blank canvas.  In addition, without any permanent imagery, the faith itself somewhat takes on the same temporary character as the images which are projected upon the blank walls.  In other words, there is nothing there at all until something is projected upon it.  It is the ultimate virtual church.  I am uneasy about this and about the implications to both the church and those who worship there.

The whole idea of a church building is to give shape and form to the faith confessed.  Integral to that faith and form is the idea of permanence.  While no one expects things built of stone or brick or wood or steel to be eternal, neither should we assume that these things are temporary -- at least not as temporary as a projected image!

The other temptation is to be creative.  Without limit or boundary to what can be done, what should not be done is as tempting as what ought to be done.  That is a simple truth that surely cannot be denied in this circumstance as well.  I am not, by the way, impugning the integrity of the pastors or staff of this congregation.  I am assuming that creativity can often lead to presumption and that just because we can, we ought to do it.  I believe there is even something Biblical in that thought.  What is possible is not always what is beneficial.  Even under the best of circumstances restraint would have to be the keyword for such technology.  The church at worship is not an entertainment experience and the technology to create whatever we will is often at odds with the focus upon the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon who thinks too much. . . or maybe not.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I agree with your thesis. Some of us like to keep things simple. Our church doesn't have an overhead screen for videos and for posting hymn lyrics. We still sing from the hymnals in the old fashioned way. I was in some churches which used the overhead screens exclusively, and hymnals were not in the pews any longer. Too bad,

Anonymous said...

Coming soon to a theater near you: Avatar Worship!

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Closer examination of the image shows that it was taken during a Christmas service with orchestra in the pit behind the pulpit with slack and sweater vested speaker.....no altar present. Or did I miss something?

Joanne said...

A "virtueller rundgang" of St. Lorenz church at Nuremberg, a virtual view of real images. It does look similar to the projected images on warehouse walls: