04 June 2011

Liturgy as PowerPoint?

Deacon Greg Kandra recently attended Mass at a church that makes use of projector screens to project the songs/hymns on the walls.  He offered his reflections, which follow, with my emphases:
But I have to say this: the experience, no matter what its intent, left me cold.

Call me old-fashioned. I like opening a book to read the words. I like the feel of it, the smell of it, the weight of it. I like the cracked, worn sensation of a missal that's been held in hundreds of hands, shared by people I may or may not know—people praying for intentions I cannot imagine, smudging the pages with their thumbs or turning over a corner to mark a place they feel an urge to revisit. I imagine a husband and wife sharing a book, or a parent and child, or even strangers. In my experience, more than a few times, I've offered to share a book with the stranger next to me, and that tiny act has bridged a divide. The simple gesture of sharing a hymnal can be a form of communion, and community.

There's the posture of prayer, too. I like holding the missal my hand, and offering a sung prayer with my eyes lowered and head bowed. I like focusing on something that's physically close to my heart, where I can zero in on the verses, follow the words closely and see how they all come together. There is an intimacy there. A connectedness. It's just naturally comfortable.

This is the way people have sung and prayed together for centuries. It's how I learned to do it. And I just feel more at ease with it. I can sing if I want to, or refrain if I don't want to, and can just close my eyes and listen if I'm not exactly in the mood.

But the projections change all that. They take away the familiarity of an open book and my lone pair of eyes reading it and ask—no, insist—that I look up and out and focus everything on a wall a hundred feet away. It's liturgy as PowerPoint. Not just that, there's something gimmicky about it: it's Mitch Miller, without Mitch, and without the bouncing ball. The sacred space becomes an auditorium for a sing-along.

Ultimately, I think, there's something inherently, well, Protestant, about it. The holy sacrifice of the mass has been transformed into just another communal gathering. The large words and changing images on the wall don't encourage contemplation or meditation; the projections, instead, demand participation. And even that, frankly, doesn't really work. At the mass I attended, the singing was not all that unified, and participation somewhat spotty. (That may have been because there were a greater-than-usual number of non-Catholics there, because of the First Communion.) And I'm not sure the gimmick works for people with poor eyesight or folks who have to crane their necks to follow along.
I couldn't agree more.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention that a parent can use a missalette/hymnal with a child learning to read to help that child follow (and sing) along, by running a finger underneath the current word. Can't do that with PowerPoint.

    And with my particular eye problem, PowerPoints are always blurry when projected on a screen. Very frustrating!

    I feel that it's very impersonal and distracting. If you don't need the missalette, you can close it. If you don't need the PowerPoint, too darn bad.