LED Screens

LED screens are up. Your hymnal and bulletin are safe. God’s gonna meet us in new ways.

Greetings from your Assistant Director of Worship Production. What a wild ride we’ve been on these last two years! Before the pandemic found us in Minnesota, Gloria Dei’s video ministry comprised of about thirty videos that had supplemented the youth and family ministry of our church over five years. When the COVID pandemic struck, Katie and Kyrstin embraced the medium of video to share programming and worship went on Zoom. As the summer continued, we began producing pre-recorded worship videos. And the next fall programming was largely Zoom-based. A year ago, as we resumed in-person worship, we transitioned to a livestream ministry. Now we have over 200 videos on YouTube! And through it all, we discovered new ways that video could connect us. Sometimes we used it in ways that stood in for what COVID made impossible: bringing us into the Sanctuary, speaking the word of God into our lives, connecting us to God’s life-giving water, bread, and wine. And we still use it every Sunday to widen the welcome at our 10:45 service to people who gather with the in-person assembly through 125+ screens and to people who join us later in replays throughout the week.

During this time, we also learned that video and still images could broaden and deepen our experience of worship in ways that were not available to us otherwise. We were able to hear the word of God at a garbage dump, at Bdote Minnesota, in a field, and elsewhere. We found our worship enriched by art from our collection and beyond, connecting images of beauty and meaning with music, readings, and sermons. We saw videos that helped children’s sermons come to life, like the sheep that was freed from a ditch only to jump in again. Members of our wider community led us in prayer from Namibia and Florida. Guest preachers who could not travel brought important and challenging words to inspire us. Digital media opened our worship to new modes of connection, community, and communication.

Our experience of technology during the pandemic has informed our plans for the Sanctuary renovation. This week a crew is installing two large LED screens above the front exits of our worship space and two smaller LED screens on the rear pillars at balcony height. I understand that this may bring a range of emotions from excitement, to anxiety, to indifference and others in between. So I want to share about how we plan to use them. Perhaps more than anything else, they will facilitate the use of our Sanctuary by outside groups who want to use them for presentations. Sometimes in worship they will connect us to people, experiences, and places that would otherwise be inaccessible to our worshiping assembly. Sometimes we will use them like paraments to adorn our worship space. Sometimes we will use them to present an image or video that heightens our engagement with a sermon, or helps us know a confirmand, or honors the deceased. As we prepare images and video for worship, our goal is to use text as little as necessary, since it tends to distract instead of enhance. This also means the screens won’t replace either hymnals or bulletins.

It’s an exciting time to be church in this place! Just as the printing press changed the church in the reformation and shaped the movement to which we belong, digital media is shaping our shared lives, faith and ministry. As our staff and volunteers continue to learn to use these particular pieces of technology, I ask you to step out with us in faith. We are on a journey of discovery together. Our best efforts will sometimes yield experiences together that feel organic and enriched—and sometimes it will be clunky. But I promise that God will meet us as we go in ways that will surprise us, challenge us, and nurture us.

Yours in Christ,

Paul Damico-Carper