Monday, May 30, 2011

What if We did Theological Reflection on Using Technology in Worship?

Father Paul Turner, whose address to the 9th liturgical congress at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome I mentioned in my last post, asks some provocative questions of the Academy about culture and liturgy, including about the potential use of technology in worship: 
We could also use some theological reflection on the uses of technology. St. Peter’s Square has introduced big screens for papal celebrations. Should we be imitating these in our parishes? Is video projection a natural outgrowth of our adoption of microphones and electric lights, which replace acoustically sound buildings and the play of candlelight? If so, then what does this say about the incarnational theology that has made the Catholic Church one of the greenest assemblages of believers around, encountering God in bread and wine, water and ash, palm branch and olive oil, perfume, bare feet, the phases of the moon, the rising of the sun, the music of the human voice, and the hallowed place of pipe organs? Is there a theology of technology that would help develop our liturgies? Would there be fewer concerns over the printed translation of the third edition of the missal if we used electronic readers instead of hardbound books? Is the controversy over the missal ultimately homage to the printing press? What if we got updates to the translation as frequently as our hard drives downloaded updates to their software? How might that change the authority within the church and the prayer of the people of God?
Definitely food for thought.  The large-screen thing maybe not so out there - we do that at large diocesan events already, such as our Youth Leadership Conference, and some parishes already use screens for the words to the songs. I suspect that may be a practice that will gradually spread - especially in large parishes, where visibility in a huge worship space can be poor for many.  In our diocese, for example, new churches must be built to seat at least 1100.  When spaces are full for Easter and Christmas, remote TV screens don't really seem that out of the realm of possibility.

Using a reader and not a book, however, will probably take longer to catch on.  Perhaps less so for the Missal than the Lectionary, which of itself, is a symbol.  (I cannot imagine the priest or deacon reverencing an e-reader by kissing it, or holding it up for the Assembly to see!)  However, there have already been stories in the news about a few priests using readers at the altar, which most reporters treated as a gimmick rather than a sensible alternative.  It would definitely require priests to do some pre-Mass setup with his choices of prayers ahead of Mass, but would certainly be easier for a younger altar server to hold a reader than the heavy new Missal!

What Father Turner proposes in his paper, is not simply about the use of technology.  His entire address is calling for a truly updated engagement of liturgical practice and current culture (including ethnic multiculturalism, attitudes about marriage and more).  Since our use of technology is becoming the hallmark of today's culture, it is appropriate that we ask these questions.  Thanks, Father Turner, for having the courage to "go there."

No comments:

Post a Comment