Multimedia adds to service

Sunday, May 19, 2002

SEDALIA, Mo. -- Thelma Miller, 86, is a longtime member of Broadway Presbyterian Church, but is homebound. She gets visits from church members and the Rev. Jeff London, but recently participated in the Sunday service.

A videotaped segment of Miller's reading a section of scripture at her home was integrated into the service, using the church's new multimedia system.

Not only was she again able to play a role in worship, but many of her friends saw her for the first time in months.

She can't recall the exact scripture she read, but she remembers how she felt when told that she would again participate in worship.

"I was really pleased, and I was surprised," she said. "My daughter brought me to church a few weeks later, and I saw my picture. Of all the people, they could have chosen, they picked me. I don't know why, but it was wonderful."

The new technology is "a great way to keep the lines of connection open with members we don't see with great frequency," the Rev. London said. "It's a faithful use of technology."

From overhead projectors to full-fledged multimedia systems, several Sedalia churches are finding that integrating sight-and-sound techniques in nontraditional ways is enhancing worship services.

Connecting members

Although Broadway Presbyterian and First Baptist Church recently acquired such systems, one has been in use for several years at Antioch Fellowship, said assistant pastor Steve Graff.

"We are a charismatic church, and we love to sing," he said.

At Antioch, song lyrics are projected in front of and above worshippers, eliminating the need for traditional hymn books.

"With traditional hymnals, everyone's nose is buried in the book," he explained. "This way, their faces are lifted up in praise and song."

This format works especially well with many contemporary Christian songs because people are free to clap or move around, Graff said.

It also can enhance sermons by posting appropriate images and text references on the screen, he said.

First Baptist Church installed its system about the same time that Broadway Presbyterian did last fall.

"We project scenes from movies or television programs that illustrate points of the message," said Bob Phillips, minister of music at First Baptist. "We also can take pictures of events in the life of the church -- mission trips, fellowship times -- and show them during services or at other times."

"There are no plans to do away with hymnals," Phillips said, but the new system can be used in what he called "blended" services in which traditional singing is combined with "praise and worship choruses" using the new technology.

The Rev. London said he doesn't worry about being upstaged.

"This is true multi-sensory worship," he said. "When we preach to just the ear and the intellectual side of the brain, that's not doing justice to the whole person."

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