#MediaLit17 Chronicles 12: Multimedia Liturgical Worship
Yesterday evening we worshipped in the hall, but it had been set up differently with stations and dim lights. On the wall there were two ‘screens’ which played the majority of the media content. There was a table, with cup and bread and covered in blue fairy lights. Around the table, chairs were set out in two rows in a semi circle.
When we walked in, we looked in a mirror with the caption instructing us to remember that we are made in the image of God. While we did this someone took a photo of us.
The service opened with an impressive video showing the development of a baby from conception until late pregnancy while doing a dramatic reading of Psalm 139.
We then had a penitential liturgy, with simple prayers followed by a guided sung response, which presumably works quite well within a Cathedral context. The video background of people’s faces came into focus when the absolution was given in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
This was followed by a long piece of choral music with a decidedly peculiar video. There was some kind of effect applied to it so that when people moved they left a slight impression behind, giving a drifting almost trippy feel to it. The footage was of some festival with scenes of people dancing and with hands up, and it went on for a fair while. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what purpose this served within the service.
EDIT: Found the video online, watch it and let me know what you think.
However once it was done we then witnessed a dramatic visual reading from the Gospel of Mathew , the story where Jesus asks the disciples who people say he is, and who they say he is. Peter says that he is the Messiah, the Son of God.
This lead into a video which functioned as a sermon or inspirational talk about being made in the image of God. This was overwhelmingly positive with no element of talking about Jesus or sin, rather we are amazing because God made us to make, designed us to design, and so on.
EDIT: Video found
We then had a contemplative exercise where we each took a different picture of Jesus to respond to. I picked this one. I liked this one because it seems to combine the three elements of the Gospel which I think are so important; the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension.
When we all gathered together again we saw a picture of Jesus on the wall, then it zoomed in and found that the picture of Jesus was made up of the pictures of us. This was quite cool.
We then shared the peace, sang a song and entered a Eucharistic liturgy which in form was a standard Anglican prayer but in language was in places quite vague. This was particularly the case in the post-eucharistic prayer.
I went up and received, but found that I personally was having to pray and say to God: “I will receive because I don’t want to reject the possibility of you in this context, but I’m unsure where you are in this.” I think that it would be fair to say that feelings in the room were varied. Some seemed to get a lot out of it. Some seemed to dislike it. Others, like myself, were unsure and unsettled throughout.
Reflecting on it overnight I think that the use of technology wasn’t the problem, though being the first time experiencing something of this kind I was overly conscious of the technological element (and to clarify, I am very familiar with using screens and videos in worship such as you would find at HTB or Hillsong but this was different), rather it was the style of the content which was jarring. The shakey, blurry effects were disconcerting and distracting. I understand that some people may find it helpful and engaging, and I acknowledge that the Holy Ground service at Exeter Cathedral has a flourishing ministry, but I have found that the use of language has given me much food for thought.
Overall, I’m glad that I attended even if it wasn’t a comfortable experience.