Back in the mid 1990s, I remember trialling some cutting-edge software at my church. We'd taken possession of a huge data projector the size of a washing machine, and I'd scrounged an old PC running Windows 3.0.
For the first time, we used PowerPoint to display song words in church.
One of our parishioners commented to me that he thought that this made us feel very 'corporate' (in the negative sense) and that the overhead projector was more friendly.
A lot has happened in the past 15 years.
Now, PowerPoint has become mainstream, even passÃ©. Most churches use data projectors to display songs and random clip art, and the overhead projector has become a museum piece.
So, what's next? What is the next big thing we should use to display our song words and other liturgical elements in our gatherings?
I am attracted by the possibility of using Flash technology to provide animated words. I'd love to be able to replicate the kind of effect used by U2 on their recent Australian tour, where the words and the background match the beat and feel of the music.
However, no matter how scripted we try to be, there will always be the renegade song leader who decides to repeat the final verse, or skip the bridge.
What's more, unless we utilise sequencers and metronomes, we will be likely to get out of time with the words.
At this year's TWIST Conference, we're looking afresh at the way we do gatherings. TWIST is more than just singing…it’s about singing together, in a gathering. We want to serve churches by trialling new technology and techniques so as to help us keep contemporary without being unhelpfully captive to our culture.
So, what should we use next? Other than animated backgrounds and centre-aligned text, is there something out there we could choose to use that will serve as an enhancement but not a distraction?