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There's an Elephant in Our Sanctuary

What to Do with the Projection Screen

Many of our worship spaces were constructed before the era of projection screens. Like my church, they’re likely to have a cross prominently placed up front, with lights and speakers and organ pipes positioned “just so.”

Enter the ten- by ten-foot white elephant some of these same churches have incorporated into their worship—the projection screen. What do we do with this beast?

At the risk of getting carried away with a visual “branding” approach, here’s how we decided to integrate the design of the support visuals for worship in my church.

Covered Cross

Our projection screen is huge. When it magically appears out of the clouds (accompanied by the mildly disturbing whir of an electric motor), it covers all but three inches or so of our wooden cross. Early on, to compensate for the covered cross, we projected a cross on the screen. But that meant the cross would come and go during the service. Our new approach allows for the cross always to be present. Although it could be constructed with sewn-together fabric, we had ours printed (wide format ink-jet). The color of this banner changes with the season—and coordinates with the projection and bulletin covers and even a banner that hangs over the welcome center.

Imagine Transformation

With that solution to the problem of the covered cross, we were free to plan more frequent changes in the projection imagery. Our church is using the theme “Being Transformed to Live and Love like Jesus” to guide decisions and long-term planning. To remind people of this idea, the images feature natural events in transformation: leaves changing in the fall (we’re located in Michigan), ice crystals in winter (ditto), blossoms in spring, and for summer . . . I don’t know. We’re not that far yet!

Although this integrated approach has solved a number of problems, including how to integrate the projection screen, nagging in the back of my mind is the feeling that perhaps this is all a little too slick. Are we trying a little too hard? Is there a danger of our churches becoming so brand-driven that we’re more concerned about the image we project (pun intended) than about the deeper meaning and purpose of worship?