For the last few months I have been wrestling with an idea that may or may not be ready for prime time. I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I would like to talk about using technology as part of the liturgical service. What I mean by this is the idea of using smartphones/iPads/Kindles for following along in the service. It would seem to be the next logical progression in church digital communications.
One of the many complaints that I hear about the Episcopal Church’s worship practices on Sunday morning is that there are so many books to juggle. Now for us “cradle Episcopalians”, being able to navigate around a prayer book, hymnal and lectionary insert is part of the right of passage and joy (if I may be so bold) of being Episcopalian. But the reality is that cradle Episcopalians are a distinct minority. Many people are coming to the church later in life and many times from either another faith tradition or no tradition at all. So when a visitor with no background in the church suddenly has to wend their way through bulletin inserts, prayer books, hymnals (sometimes more than one) and anything else….well, the experience could be overwhelming and not in a necessarily good way.
There have been various ways that this issue has been dealt with. Booklets have been created every Sunday with the BCP service copied out. Projection screens with Powerpoint presentations have been used. How-to sheets with page numbers and color coding. Some work, some don’t. Unfortunately, unless you recycle a lot of it ends up in a landfill.
I would like to propose that maybe we look into using smartphones as a medium for the service information. One could create a PDF file with all of the information laid out in the appropriate order. A person could then either download the file from a website, or cooler yet, use the smartphone to scan a QR barcode linked to the PDF file. You wouldn’t need to change the barcode that would be scanned since you would be able to create a new PDF every week and associate it with the code. You would certainly be more eco-friendly since no paper would be needed for printing.
I found an article on this that I think has some merit, at least as a jumping off point for discussion. Personally, I do not think that being a liturgical church means we can’t use the technology. At the very least, fewer bulletins and inserts would be needed. The stigma of using smartphones in meetings as diversions and being disengaged is going away. Personally, I think it is worth considering.