Fr. Catfish - It's Come To This...PowerPoint comes to the Catholic Church
  • There's a church around here that has big screens set up. I have avoided that parish for years now but I'd imagine PowerPoint is involved somehow now. Their DoM is also some kind of recording artist...
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    I hesitate to hop into the fray here, but....

    My previous parish got a new priest two years ago who decided to put in some large video screens. The logic was that this would give us more flexibility to display words an music, maybe an occasional video after Mass, etc. Initial reaction was negative (primarily "Oh my God - those things are HUGE") but the priest stuck with it. After two years, including providing words and music for the Masses that our schola sang for, here's some personal conclusions.

    * It's not very easy to ensure that the screens are visible EVERYplace in the church. Having 90% or even 95% is admirable, but still leaves a lot of people without the ability to see them.

    * Even using a font about 8 inches tall, some people in the back won't be able to see it.

    * It's a big change for people to switch from looking down (at the books in their hands) to looking up (above and to the side of the priest)

    * People aren't always just looking at the music or words of what's happening right that second. The screens can only be showing about 10-20 words at any time.

    * There is, fortunately, some great open source software (free) which does a decent job of displaying the content, so it doesn't look as gaudy as your PowerPoint example.

    * The music publishers aren't totally up to speed on this technology - getting licenses, and usable electronic versions, can be a problem. We ended up typing every word by hand, so lots of errors crept in.

    * It's a lot harder to run the projection during Mass than you'd expect. Getting the screen flips at the right time isn't easy. Teaching a volunteer to follow music and/or Latin is hard, and mistakes will be made. It really needs to be a dedicated position to manage all this, because it takes REAL work and you don't want your Mass to be a shambles.

    * If the PC crashes, do you have a backup process to use? Did you backup all your files? You'll end up with THOUSANDS of hours of work put into this.

    Enough for now.... YMMV.
  • These are all faults that happen every sunday in souther baptist churches.

    Along with soloists who bring their own tracks and end up standing silent when the sound guy plays: the wrong track, the wrong cd....while musicians very capable of playing are sitting there....
  • I'm not even completely opposed to the screens. It's the music they put on them that gets me. If the church embraces technology, fine. It's when they completely abandon all tradition in music that gets me.
  • The background on most of the slides looks like it came from the opening credits of the "Looney Tunes" shorts. Just sayin'.

    Oh, and they might want to update their Mass texts.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    If you're going to use it in place of a worship aid, there is only one way to make it look the least awful:
    Black background
    White text/music
    Very good font
    No artwork
    No animation
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    I agree, Adam. But I found it much harder to produce white-on-black than I would have thought. Part of the problem was trying to produce the music using the (free) tools that I have, and there was also a need to make the white fonts more bold than when we did black-on-white.

    We also got into interesting discussions about using a background color that reflected the liturgical color of the day, or one that more matches the color scheme of the inside of our church.

    Any artwork used is purely decorative, basically a meditative aid to substitute for a blank screen.

    This is something that's still under development at my previous parish - it's not easy.

    And, of course, never, never, never any animation or clipart. Totally inappropriate.
  • The Mass has been celebrated with the same movements, the same visual center. To use projection screens screams either SPORTS BAR or TV's on the wall of restaurants to give you something to look and and think about instead of the meal.

    There is NO reason for them and LOTS OF REASONS NOT TO USE THEM.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    >>I agree, Adam. But I found it much harder to produce white-on-black than I would have thought. Part of the problem was trying to produce the music using the (free) tools that I have,

    Photoshop. One click.
    There must be some free tool that does reverse-images also.

    >>and there was also a need to make the white fonts more bold than when we did black-on-white.

    Make your font bigger. Use Garamond.
    Most people (in corporate PowerPoint world also) try to make their fonts too small and put too much on the screen.

    >>We also got into interesting discussions about using a background color that reflected the liturgical color of the day, or one that more matches the color scheme of the inside of our church.
    NO.
    The whole point of black background is that it is less obtrusive.
    Since it is a projection, the black is actually a lack of anything.
    So then you are just projecting what is required.

    >>Any artwork used is purely decorative, basically a meditative aid to substitute for a blank screen.
    NO.
    No artwork.
    There is absolutely nothing that can be projected on a wall by a projector that could possibly be edifying in a liturgical context.
    The whole point behind black-screen, white text is minimize and/or mitigate the awfulness of a projector use.

    >>And, of course, never, never, never any animation or clipart. Totally inappropriate.
    No art whatsoever.


    The second you cross the line into adding a background color, putting in a nice image for meditation, or even choosing a second font (for variety) all hope that it will ever be a tasteful and restrained aide to worship is lost and you enter into cheezeball territory. Even if the one piece of art isn't bad, or the second font choice is perfectly fine, it opens the floodgates for creativity and fun, which means it's only a matter of time before someone does something truly horrendous.

    It's very similar to the less-evil cousin, the printed worship aide.
    They should be printed in black ink on good, white paper. There should be a single, tasteful font used throughout. There should be no artwork.
    Because even if YOUR choice of artwork is good. Even if YOUR mix of fonts is perfectly fine... the annoying church office lady who takes over the making of programs when you leave or go on vacation (or who steals the task from you in some weird liturgical powerplay) will not notice the difference between your traditional line-art and her pagan-lady-praying-to-fire ("It's the Holy Spirit").
  • I am almost sure Paint.net gives you the ability to reverse colors. Will check when I get home.
  • You mean, you don't use the flowing fields of wheat movies behind the presentation of the gifts, bubbling brooks during baptism? With appropriate new age mindless music?
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    No artwork in any liturgical aid or up on the wall? I understand your arguments, but I tend to disagree.

    Now mixing artwork on a slide with music or sung text? I agree, that's a real problem. But pure artwork instead of a black screen? I guess I don't much difference between that and the other artwork in the church. Sure, it's only 2D, but so are paintings. It could be changed to something else at a moment's notice, but that doesn't mean you're going to do it.

    It's an interesting discussion, and not so different from the topic of whether it's proper to read your hymns from an iPad versus from a hymnbook or missalette. It makes me wonder what discussions were taking place when books were first introduced into Masses hundreds of years ago.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    >>It makes me wonder what discussions were taking place when books were first introduced into Masses hundreds of years ago.

    I understand that Plato was sure that writing would be the downfall of civilization.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I've seen the white-on-black thing before, at Mars Hill Bible Church in West Michigan, presumably the brainchild of popular author Rob Bell. It is VERY effective. The best part is that there is no distraction to it: you look at it when it says something, and look away after you read it. I will say it was enhanced by the whole church being black and rather dimly-lit. I'm not sure how a more traditional church would fare.

    Projection screens REALLY annoy me. Because I don't like them/think they belong in church, but I have no good reason whatsoever why not.
  • I find them a distraction because they take you away from looking at what it really going on.

    I propose that being at Mass where video cameras project the priest at the altar may not be valid if you spend your time watching the priest on the video screen instead of the priest.

    Think about it.

    If this is "acceptable", then why not watch him from home and have the Extraordinary Ministers on camera fill pre-addressed envelopes with consecrated hosts and have alter persons accompany them with lit candles to the big blue mailbox on the corner adn drop them is for later consumption at home.

    In fact, have then pre-sanctified, mailed off with an effective date for consumption, including the time of the TV video Mass. "This host only valid for consumption while viewing the 11:00 Mass from St. johns. No other TV Mass at an other time satisfies your obligation."

    Envelopes should read, "THIS ENVELOPE CONTAINS THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD _ DO NOT FOLD STAPLE..."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Distraction? Yeah, so is architecture. I've been distracted from worship before by architecture. As I recall, that was the rationale behind the Calvinist revisions to many churches - remove the distraction so people can only look at what's really going on.

    I guess it comes down to how much control you want to have over your congregation. I like to flip through the hymnal, read the worship aid, explore devotional books, look around, etc. I find it more immersive than just doing the specified tasks. The projection screen takes that away from me. Also, the usual layout leaves me unprepared for what comes next... SIT! STAND! SING! READ! It's like Simon Says.

    Of course, there are those that say the congregation should not have the freedom to do as they please. All must sing the hymns, all must kneel for the consecration, all must hold hands at the Pater (or all must not!). I can see the appeal to that too: "decently in good order", make things clear for people, congregational activity, ensuring orthodoxy, etc.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    My strong preference is for well-made hand booklets.

    But I think there are some (very few) instances where a projection screen is better or the only possibility.
    (Or where previous controlling forces have foisted one upon you unwillingly).

    In these cases, it is good to know what the least-bad way of doing it is.

    In my opinion (from direct, practical experience):
    -White on black
    -Garamond or another high quality, serif, liturgical-book font (Garamond was used in the 1979 American BCP)
    -Giant font size
    -no artwork, no decoration, nothing not 100% needed by the congregation
    -do not use as an aide to mediation, as a presentation tool for the homily, or as a place to put welcome announcements. If the congregation does not need to be reading or singing something out loud, there should be nothing on the screen
    -no bullet points
    -no animations or slide transition. In fact, you can use a PDF viewer in full screen mode. (This is actually a great idea- because if you're going to do it in a PDF, you can build the document in InDesign or something instead of PowerPoint)
    -resist all attempts to add or be clever
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    As an academic who presents with PowerPoint (and Keynote), I'd agree with all of Adam's "least-bad way" suggestions (and would also recommend the book "Beyond Bullet Points" if someone wants to know more)…

    …but I would strenuously object to ever using projections in the context of the Mass in the first place. It is exceedingly difficult for me to imagine how a projection could ever be so "needed" so as to warrant its use. (Hm… one of those stadium Papal mega-Masses, maybe. But those are already fraught with other troubles.)
    Distraction? Yeah, so is architecture. I've been distracted from worship before by architecture. As I recall, that was the rationale behind the Calvinist revisions to many churches - remove the distraction so people can only look at what's really going on.
    But beautiful architecture shows us images of actual objects… not substanceless projected images. And architecture isn't animated. Changing slides on a PowerPoint, even with no "transitions" whatsoever, is itself an animation of sorts, and would seem quite distracting to me.

    Good heavens… my life is surrounded by technology as it is. Is one hour a week without it too much to ask?
  • What drove me away finally from Protestant churches was the way that Gnostics took over the last one I belonged to. They had a wonderful pastor and, boy, did they hate him. He was Black, they were white liberals, and his loyalty to Scripture really made them mad.

    One trick they pulled, when I think he was still Asst. Pastor, was cry out about the system we used--two reliable old hymnals (one denominational, one not) and a projector for all the then-new "praise and worship" songs. But this was just pretext: they ginned up a "crisis," stacked the committee, and imposed the new denominational hymnal, which was "inclusive."

    Those of us who were orthodox kicked and screamed, so the Elders said we should not use any hymns that varied from the Creeds. Fat chance. But as the orthodox streamed out the door, I was a band leader, and any hymn whose "inclusive" text excluded Christ got sung with the old text projected. Ooooo, boy, was I unpopular.

    I think screens can work, but am not sure why you would use them.

    As for that hymnal, I somehow remembered the word "etiolated," and thought that might apply. It did: it's what happens when you cover plants and they turn white becase there can't synthesize chlorophyll or whatever is the correct way to say that. So it means "bleached white by lack of light." The "inclusive" hymnal excluded the Light of the Gospel, and the church went from attempting to be a "church for all peoples" to a church for white people who wore natural colored fabric.