Introduction: “Body Language Overview”
Audio: “Can You Hear Me Now?”
Video: “Room With a View”
Lighting: “In The Beginning…”
Seating: “Please Be Seated”
Conclusion: “All Together Now…”
Full Frontal Liturgy” is an oxymoron. Worship is supposed to be participatory, so when the body language of the environment says the opposite – what’s a body to do? First a brief recap of all 5 previous articles and then we’ll focus on what all this means to us today:
Introduction: “Body Language Overview”: studied the ancient-future context for seeking a philosophy of technology.
Audio: “Can You Hear Me Now?”: sought to understand why natural room acoustics have suffered since the arrival of electricity.
Video: “Room With a View”: recovered the participatory human attributes in video technology.
Lighting: “In The Beginning…”: restored the context of intimacy for specialty lighting in worship assembly environments.
Seating: “Please Be Seated”: established the ergonomic and seating arrangements of the individual and corporate body language for worship assembly.
Throughout our discussion we have spent time considering how we worshipped in the past (ekklesia – assembly) before electricity in comparison to worship with electricity. We discovered that it is no mystery that we are at a point where we are now suffering from a type of “kinesthetic amnesia” in our one-dimensional worship environments today. This irony is not lost on the fact that we have more technical capacity (electrical and non-electrical) than any time in past history and consequently our human dimensions have been lost in translation mainly due to the fact that there is no translation. The more we have come to rely on electronics, the more we have unplugged ourselves from the way our human bodies were created.
In an attempt to restore the connection between high-touch to high-tech however, we have seen that while once we could power up the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, although this does not have to be the case. Remember the Blue Man Group or Cirque ‘d Solei experiences? By gaining an historical perspective of technology we have seen that it is entirely possible to reclaim a sense of balance between the natural assembly environment and technology. While our pre-electrical forebears didn’t have the choice to “plug it in”, we do have the choice to “unplug it” and see what we’re missing.
Remember that we are not talking about anti-technology here. In the original Greek root of technology “techni” means “art” and “logos” means “dialogue”, thus technology could be translated “art dialogue” which assumes all our senses. And let’s face it, in terms of resources they are relatively unlimited, so we can frame the context for frame the context for the statement “it’s not what can we do, but what should we do?” What is needed is a way to discuss the context for arriving at a dynamic philosophy of technology.
As we have seen, a working philosophy of technology is one that is ongoing in the midst of day-to-day worship and worship planning using all our senses along our journey. While there is no one right or wrong philosophy of technology, we have seen that there are basic realities that we can rediscover from past cultures to help guide us and apply in this day and age.
In order to discover these basic realities we have briefly accomplished a rudimentary comparison-contrast between the former Anasazi Native Indians of Chaco Canyon in present northwest New Mexico and the current Grace Community Church in Indianapolis, Indiana – from one “tribe” to another.
The Anasazi were obviously pre-electricity around the turn of the first millenium AD, but they also had tremendous technology that allowed them to build unique structures which are still standing after another millennium, with no written language, no math and no wheels. Grace Community Church on the other hand is only 14 years old and obviously has electricity, written language, math and plenty of wheels but has been rediscovering what it means to seek a balance in this electronic age during their current expansion project.
Our place, our time, finding a way forward: An appropriate metaphor for this conversation might simply be that we currently seem to be moving “forward” with the car in reverse while moving in the otherwise forward flow of traffic. You could say to someone that “we’re moving forward” when in reality we’re really looking backward trying to see forward in the “rear view”. While it may seem like that metaphor is actually what we have been discussing in all these articles – restoring an “ancient-future” balance by remembering our past. Even so, additional context is needed to help us understand exactly what “forward” means.
The issue is not to have someone else provide answers for your questions (that’s the linear, modern mode i.e. one size fits all, the ubiquitous “church-in-a-box”). Nor is it helpful long term to have someone come and give you the questions (the post-modern thing). The most important issue is to create a context for helping you discover the right questions for you, day after day. If there is one major flaw in our post-modern world it’s that we have still have an imprinted cranial modern world view (that whole driving in reverse to go forward thing) even while we’re trying to regain a postmodern perspective.
Let’s get specific. Say you are trying to purchase some theatrical lighting fixtures for your worship space so you contact a sales representative. Usually the first question they ask will be “what are you trying to do?” You should know the answer to this question (or at least a context for discussing it) before any footcandles, fixture type, movable or fixed, power or budget is decided upon. Especially budget! So much money is wasted on technology for a lack of a specific, user driven (get the pun?) philosophy of technology.
It may be helpful to consider how to look at the future by making a distinction between flexibility and adaptability. Flexibility is what we might do this week, next month, perhaps later in the year or early next year. Adaptability is what our kids will do 10 years from now and frankly for that we don’t have a clue. But by framing the context for our discussion in this way it is possible to discern and develop over time the ability to “see” what you need to be looking at – ‘wallah’! – a philosophy of technology and a dynamic one at that.
Realistically, the most significant challenge to this discussion is leadership. The CEO-Pastor top-down structure is out of sync with our collective intelligence, co-creational post-modern world. Think ‘wiki’ versus Jack Welch. Think the of all the national morning news shows shooting live out on the street every day of the year on the east coast instead of Walter Cronkite in solo baritone static in front of a logo. Think “You-Tube” providing instant and genuine fame (real people just like me) versus the slow-as-molasses modern, linear, programming-based broadcast model of would-be stars moving to Hollywood waiting tables and sifting through the mire of entertainment politics for years on end. Think American Idol with the grass roots national search and high-falootin’ judges balanced by an all inclusive national instant poll – talk about natural selection! Think “MySpace” and new bands skyrocketing to overnight fame because of the wisdom of crowds versus the old days of a young Elvis slugging away in some honky-tonk for years.
Right or wrong, it is what it is – WWJD? As we have seen over the course of these articles these issues have existed before even in Jesus time – mainly before “modern” i.e. electrical, technology. What our pre-electricity forbears possessed was the ability to see context and at the risk of being redundant, co-creational, collective intelligence in their “pre-postmodern” world. For us then what we can do is to begin a self-realization to recognize that “Houston, we have a problem” and not just get this body language issue on our radar screen, but make it our radar screen!
Body language is significant at all levels in the design process whether renovating or building new, so let’s start by talking about what we’re going to be talking about. It’s really not that hard and it’s sure a lot easier than continuing to attempt to navigate the current dynamic world in a “straight and narrow” linear (technologically propositional?) path of the proverbial square peg in a round hole. We could learn from the Anasazi even though they’re gone because they (along with all pre-electrical cultures) do still exist somewhere in our pre-electrical DNA…just ask the folks at Grace Community Church in Indianapolis – if you’re happy and you know it, then your environmental “body language” sure should show it!