(from Pr. Preus) In a recent blog I made a comment about the use of projection screens during services which solicited no small amount of response. In a private conversation, one of the pastors in my district made the same argument to me that was made in one of the responses to my blog. He argued that the use of a screen will get people’s noses out of their hymnals, force them to look up and therefore project their voices more (Pun intended). OK, let’s grant that singing loudly is better than mumbling the words of a hymn or song looking face down into the book.
That being the case it would seem to me that those who sing the praises of the use of screens during the divine service would devise other ways by which to get the people to look up during the divine service. Let’s see, how could we do that? I know. We could use the same liturgy week after week so that after a while all the people would know it by heart.
It happened in my church last week. I looked out at the congregation during the singing of the Gloria in Excelsis. We were following Divine Service III from the LSB. It’s the one that is basically the old P. 15 from TLH. No one was looking down. The grandmas were swaying in the third row. The moms and dads in the back were fussing with the rug rats, eyes unable to focus on either book or the front of the church where a screen might have been. And they sang. The high-school kids, having just returned from the Higher Things conference where such fare is offered thrice daily, were singing without looking down. Even the middle aged men who have been trained to mouth the words without making a sound were mouthing without looking down. Most were singing loudly and no one was looking down. It made me feel like the shepherds who must have eventually looked up and away from the ground during the first Gloria and perhaps by the third refrain were humming along.
Of course I’ve heard the counter arguments. The uninitiated or visitors can’t sing the liturgy initially without looking down. So the screen will help visitors sing. Well, I don’t think so. Visitors who already know the Gloria will sing it whether it’s on the page or the screen. Visitors who are not familiar with the liturgy might actually have to learn it before they can sing it. But the same applies to almost anything else on the screen. People who don’t know the songs won’t sing them until they do no matter what the vehicle of their presentation. I’ve been in churches which use the screen and when people don’t know what is projected they don’t sing. It’s no different than when stuff if printed on the page.
The best way to get people to sing is to surround them with all sorts of other people who are singing. Every decent choir director knows that. You surround the weak with the strong and they become strong. So in the divine service; if you consistently sing the same liturgical pieces, then, in time, everyone will be able to sing – the old, the young, the uninitiated and the partially initiated, the seeing, the blind, the shepherds and all the heavenly host.
Screens are not inherently wrong or right. They are superfluous in churches which consistently use the liturgy.