In this issue, we will review using digital video projection in worship and various ministries of the local church. Admittedly, due to cost, this article may apply more to medium-sized or larger congregations, but congregation with sufficient funds and interest can certainly benefit from using this technology.
If you think using digital video technology seems out of place in the Church, consider this: the Church has been using "cutting edge" technology for centuries. The printed Bible and hymn book, the piano and organ, microphones and amplifiers, film and overhead projectors, radio and television broadcasts, and TV/VCR video presentations are all examples of the Church's pioneering spirit. Each of these likely met with some resistance when it was first proposed for use in the Church, but imagine worshiping or ministering without them now. The desktop computer with specialized software and digital video projection is the latest "cutting edge" technology to be introduced into the Church for worship and ministry. Let's take full advantage of it!
In Soldiers Chapel at Ft. Benning, GA, where I presently serve in worship each week, we have incorporated this technology into our worship services every Sunday. Using a Pentium II desktop computer with Windows 98 operating system, Microsoft Powerpoint 97 installed, and a digital video projector, we display on a big screen behind the chancel for all to see and follow the words to the hymns, the responsive reading, the Doxology, a musical call to prayer and response to prayer, and the Scripture reading. In fact, though I don't necessarily recommend this for everyone, we even use instrumental hymns on compact disks (CDs) for our musical accompaniment because we do not have a live accompanist. Of course, it takes some practice getting everything synchronized, including an assistant to advance the slides on-screen (though a remote mouse can also do this) and someone to start/stop the CDs at the proper cues, but it still makes for an inspiring service.
Besides displaying words on-screen, we also incorporate some breath-taking photos during the prelude and postlude of the service. Powerpoint lets you set slides on a timer so they will automatically transition at your pre-set times. Thus, if you plan on a five minute prelude, divide the time by the number of photos you plan to show and set the timer for each slide accordingly. While your accompanist plays beautifully, your congregation can also enjoy a veritable visual rapture while they prepare themselves for worship.
Certainly, you can use this equipment in more than worship alone. It is suitable for committee meetings, where you can flash your agenda and discussion points on-screen, and Administrative Board meetings, where you can present various proposals, such as your new building plans, financial campaign goals, Charge Conference reports, etc. You can also use it for Sunday School teacher seminars or Bible studies. Connect a VCR and you can show entertaining and educational videos for any age group. The possibilities are seemingly limitless!
"All this sounds great, but how much does this high-tech equipment cost?" you ask. Well, it's expensive, but not as expensive as you might think. I priced a digital projector in a popular office supply store chain starting at $3,495.99. They progress in price, depending on the brand and model. You will need to shop and compare at several retailers (both "brick-and-mortar" and online), as well as polling other churches who already have one, before making your final decision on what to buy. I cannot go into detail here on how to select the right system for your particular local church, but I will gladly answer your questions by email, or refer you to someone who knows more about it than I do.
If you want to observe this technology firsthand, you could visit Frazer Memorial United Methodist in Montgomery, AL (they've had this equipment for some time), or you can visit Soldiers Chapel at Ft. Benning anytime for a demonstration. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me at 706-544-8485 (W) or 706-xxx-xxxx (H) to make arrangements.
With a digital projector, VCR, CD player, and amplifier system all connected to each other, you could give a slide show and/or video presentation that would make your worship experience even more inspiring and truly enliven your mundane meetings. In this "digital age", I believe the Church's pioneering spirit is as strong as ever.
Next issue: Creating a Local Area Network (LAN) in the local church.