Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The View from behind the Pulpit

You don't often see me in church. Oh, I'm there often enough — you just don't see me. Half the time, I'm closeted away in the A/V room, running lights, camera, and various bits of recording equipment. It's not a job for those seeking glamor an attention, and that suits me just fine. Running A/V equipment is a lot like typesetting — people really only notice if you mess it up. Do it right, and you're invisible; people notice what you're there to make look good.

I'd reckon that less than half of the church even knows that there's a small room off to the left of the stage. Most of the time, the only evidence that there's anything there are the two one-way windows set into the wall. Those little windows are my eyes to the world. If Katie is scheduled to play an offertory, and I don't know who Katie is, or what instrument she plays, I can peek out to see if someone is sitting at the piano, is on-stage, or hiding off in the wings with a violin tucked under her chin.

Working back there has given me a slightly different perspective on church services. Some of the common elements of a service have spiritual significance; plenty more are there just to keep things running smoothly. I've been in churches where the pastor acted as MC, calling people forward to do their things. The place we've been going for the last 12 years has an Order of Service — half-sheets of paper given out to everyone who'll be participating. When it's your turn, you go up and do what you're going to do. It also let me know if I need to dim the lights, lower the screen, or pan the camera over to a different part of the stage. One church I used to attend always asked the congregation to stand and sing as the offering plate was being passed, partly, I think, to make it easier to get wallets out of pants pockets. It might be tempting to see it all as a performance, but as often as I see it that way, I see times when what happens diverges from what's on my OoS, and it's definitely something wonderful that We didn't put together, and We needed to hear, or see.

How do you participate in corporate worship if you're not sitting amongst the body? I probably sound faintly ridiculous, singing along with my headphones on, the music pulsing softly through the walls. I find it's just as easy to contemplate the sermon while lying on the floor as it is to do it in a pew. As I burn the DVDs for the shut-ins that can't make it to church, I wonder what they do. Do they sing along, too? Do they fast-forward the announcements, or do they want to know what's going on in church? Do they take notes on the sermon, or just listen to it while they wash dishes?

What does church look like when no one knows you're there?


tumbleweedgirl said...

i think what you're doing is awesome. if i had had the chance to be offered a DVD of what was happening at our church, i would have listened to all of it in the attempt to stay current with what is happening with people.

worship happens almost anywhere. it's nice to read your thoughts on the matter

Jonadab said...

> people really only notice
> if you mess it up. Do it right,
> and you're invisible

That's almost a direct quote out of _Wag the Dog_, except they were talking about being the Producer (of a movie or somesuch), and they used plumbing as their analogy, and I think they threw in a gratuitous bit of vulgarity as well... but the basic idea is the same.

Andy said...


I've never seen the movie, and I've been a typesetter and sometime audio engineer long before said movie came out. I was told the same thing as I started my training for each.


Jonadab said...

IMO, _Wag the Dog_ is a movie actually worth seeing. It's not on my top ten list or anything, but I've seen much worse.

I don't think I'd show it to kids, though.