Does your order of worship still include a prelude and postlude? Traditionally these are the parts of worship that prepare us for coming into worship and accompany our leaving worship. In a presentation for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (worship.calvin.edu), Jim Heynen said, “A prelude should be a bridge from our context to our communal worship; a postlude should be the same bridge, walked in the opposite direction. The bridge must be firmly anchored on the side of holy worship but, to be firm, equally well anchored on the side of our earthly context” (“Imaginative Options for Prelude, Offertory, Postlude,” June 17, 2005). I love this description. But how do we do this well—not only with sound, but also with our visuals?
While the prelude is playing, what are our eyes looking at? There is, of course, the flow of people coming and going, and our eyes may be drawn to different things. But some worship spaces have large digital displays reminding people of next Wednesday’s all-church supper, the youth group outing, a call for nursery volunteers, new member photos, and so on. Before and after worship are the perfect times for those announcements, right? I don’t think so. These ads might be useful for our context, but how well do they bring us into communal worship?
So how can we use visuals in these transitional stages to be a bridge to and from holy worship? Here are a few ideas that could hold the interest of people of all ages:
- Don’t show anything. The prelude can be like those liberating times when the power goes out in your neighborhood and your family is unexpectedly forced to deal with darkness, no internet, and no screens. Leaving your worship space displays completely blank can help worshipers quiet their minds and hearts in preparation for encountering God.
- Display the colors of the liturgical season you’re in. Indicating the season name in small text in the lower right of the screen (or in the printed material, or in an explanation from the pastor) can help those who aren’t sure what you’re up to.
- Display multiple views of a single image. Find an appropriate piece of art—not always classic biblical paintings; think of the kids!—and show both the whole image and occasionally close-ups of its different parts.
- Run through a list of God’s names. Include their meanings in smaller text. Don’t provide images. The repetition of God’s names reminds worshipers of why they worship and prepares them to offer their praise to God.
As I imagine these presentations in my mind, I think of a looped slideshow with slow dissolves so your fellow worshipers don’t feel as if they have to keep their eyes on the screen at all times to avoid missing something. We want them walking over the bridge, not running.