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Worship aid or distraction


As we have been propelled into a digital world over the past three decades, many churches around the globe have had to face the debate of screens or no screens.

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It is a challenging balance to maintain reverence in a place of worship, display hospitality to newcomers by helping the congregation with responses and being able to embrace the introduction of new liturgical music and not be bound to an aging hymnal in the pew. There are valid pros and cons for the use of screens and other worship aids.

Here in the Adelaide Archdiocese, you may find a church that is using hymnals printed more than 40 years ago when the hymns Open My Eyes, Lord by Jesse Manibusan and Bernadette Farrell’s Christ Be Our Light hadn’t yet been written.

In contrast, another church is using screens and projecting lyrics for a song that was written last year and others are handing out the parish newsletter before Mass with the Liturgy of the Word printed for people to follow. Their intention is to clearly communicate and increase the potential for participation, but it can sometimes be a distraction.

The preparation of the Sunday Mass PowerPoint should be kept simple and aid worship by following these suggestions, after discussion with your liturgy team and parish priest:

Admittedly, it is easy to be distracted while sitting in the pews among the body of Christ; from the rustling of newsletters and shifting bodies to upset children and coughing – we all find our minds wandering.

Our liturgy invites us throughout to respond, change postures and lift our voices in song which are all valuable moments for refocus and listening. Even if we only catch a few lines, those are the words that can sit in our heart.

Maybe the newsletter could be handed to people as they exit and parishioners could read the Sunday readings ahead of time.

If your parish has not adopted the use of screens and doesn’t have the funds for updated hymnals, you could brainstorm ways to put together a weekly, monthly or seasonal lyric booklet with some reliable favourites and maybe some new hymns for your parish community to learn.

This would require copyright annotation to include the parish OneLicense details and it could be a way to help your worshipping community engage in liturgical music that is continuously being created.

To be of the mindset that we have enough liturgical music and new music is too hard to learn is to be closed off to our current artists and expression of faith for future generations.

If we listened to that kind of mindset in the 80s and 90s we would never have introduced the songs that have now become the old favourites such as Dan Schutte’s City of God, Kevin Bates’ Our Supper Invitation or Bob Hurd’s Gather Your People.

By creatively thinking of ways to communicate song lyrics and keep the focus on worship and participation, we can grow as a faith community.

Lauren Bierer, Pastoral Support – Community Life & Worship


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