When I was at the Best Practices in Ministry conference in Phoenix, AZ, last month, I attended a breakout session called, “Environmental Projection: Telling a Visual Story in Worship.” The moderator, James Lavendar, a worship leader at a church in Arizona, presented ways in which he has projected images and colors, both moving and stationary, onto all the walls of his church’s worship space in order to bring out certain feeling or highlight a particular theme or season in the church year.
The possibilities seem endless. There could be snow falling during a Christmas service. Twinkling stars could bring out the message of the Epiphany star that led the wise men to the baby Jesus. Various shades of red could be used to indicate the blood Christ shed on the cross in a Lenten service. The rising sun could warm the room with the joy of the resurrection. The session was crackling with good ideas.
Yet beyond all the bells and whistles of the technology that can make all this happen, my thoughts turned to what we can do as leaders in the church to build a certain atmosphere within a worship space? What thoughts and/or feelings do we project or elicit by anything that is visually present in a worship space?
Stained glass windows were the long-standing traditional way to set the tone in a church. They made the parishioner feel a sense of holiness, peace and reflection. (Projection of the imagery of stained glass windows can still be very effective in bringing these tones into a more modern worship setting, Lavender indicated.) But over time it became flowing banners and more contemporary works of art that set the environment of worship. Paint colors on the walls can even have an effect on a worshiper’s mood.
I don’t have all the answers here, of course, but it is important for us as worship leaders to recognize ways in which we can utilize the particular visual components of our worship spaces that we have available in unique and interesting ways to highlight the message we want to send in any given service. Putting the spotlight on a stained glass window of the manger scene in your church on Christmas Eve while singing “Silent Night” might bring about a touching moment for worshipers, for instance.
But even beyond all visual aspects of a church, we need to do all we can to make sure that our worship environment attitude is warm and friendly, welcoming and accepting in the way we approach people, in the smiles we share, in the hugs and handshakes we give. Before they even see a single projection on the wall, visitors can tell how uplifting a church body is by the encounters have with people.
It is our role to do all we can to be encouraging environmental projections personified in our churches, our homes, our schools, our workplaces by how we reflect Christ to others. Be God’s masterpiece in the world today and always.