Sunday, February 10, 2013

Words-only hymn screen

This subject contains some humor for me. Not unbridled guffawing hilarity. Just a tinge of it that makes the smile turn up a little more on one side.

What is a "words-only hymn screen"? The "words-only hymn book" is a familiar phrase in my circles. It is a small booklet that contains only words of hymns -- no music, no staffs, no shaped notes, no nothing. Nothing but words, that is. The "words-only hymn screen" is my play on words for the large screen or screens hung in the front of churches on which words of hymns are projected to read and sing.

Some think this is very progressive. One blogger remembers how he once viewed projection screens in a church as sign that they "had departed from dead tradition, monotonous hymns, and a church culture geared for the elderly." Those who use and like the projectors and screens likely view themselves and their churches as contemporary, sophisticated, trendy and on the cutting edge of progress.

Some think this is too progressive. While churches using the screens may view themselves as up-to-date, conservative churches that use hymnals likely view those that use projectors and screens as too progressive -- at the least unnecessary & distracting and at the worst even liberal.

It is, in fact, regressive. Yes, while those who promote and those who protest "PowerPoint worship" think of it as progressive, for better or worse -- it actually is regressive, that is, "returning to a former state." Before our churches used projectors or hymnals with printed music, they used words-only hymn books.* One had to read the hymn and learn the tune orally. The state of progressive Christianity and hi-tech hymnody has returned to a former state. The old is new again (says I, as a smile forms on my lips).

Related readings
Advantages of Hymn Books (Cottrill)
Advantages of Hymn Books (Smith)
Danger Of Overhead Hymns
Hymnals or Screens?
Hymn books v data projectors
Powerpoint worship
Projection Screens in Churches: Musings on the Sign and the Thing Signified
Using Screens in Worship: One church's criteria

* And as a matter of fact, many churches (though a minority) still use words-only hymn books.

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