Story

Digital Glass

Digital Glass is a worship DVD that makes a concious effort to be different to the norm. Adrian Riley, emergingchurch.info’s editor, chats with DVD co-creator peder Morgenthaler to discover why…

congratulations on an excellent worship resource in ‘digitial glass’. what prompted you and sally to create this dvd?

Well, Sally and I both have a passion for the advancement of worship beyond what one would typically find in most churches. When we sat down to talk about the current forms and methods for worship we would continually return to the lack of quality visual media available to church leaders that could truly inspire and invoke a response. Both of us gravitate towards some of the ancient forms of story, so it became our goal to translate some of those forms, such as the lament, or the Stations, into a visual form using the technology widely available today.

the title of the dvd is a reference to the stained glass found in churches, the original idea of which was to communicate bible stories to largely uneducated congregations through images rather than words. most people these days can read, but do you see a direct link between the stained glass of several hundred years ago and the use of multimedia in worship today?

I feel that the Church’s reliance on the Word as text has greatly limited the interaction between us and God. In this post-Renaissance intellectualized world we’ve turned the living Word into easily digestible study guides and highlighted texts. Yet the grand stories and ideas in the Bible play much less of a role in peoples lives today than they did 500 years ago. Our goal was to give a “face” to the stories, to illustrate the Word in an emotionally engaging fashion rather than to rely on a didactic method of instruction. The images in the stained glass windows were REAL to the parishoners hundreds of years ago because of the recognizable situations and symbolism. We’re just providing moving windows imbued with the symbolism of the 21st century.

one of the sequences on the dvd i can see capturing people’s imagination in worship is something quiet ancient – the ‘stations of the cross’. how do you feel something so obviously associated with traditional Catholic worship translates in a multimedia format?

A couple of my best friends are Catholic, and while I don’t always agree with all of their beliefs, I’ve come to envy parts of their experience. The Catholic tradition places great value on story and sacrifice. “Stations” simply attempts to translate those values of story and sacrifice into a form of music and motion that is at once both accessible and moving. The beautiful and haunting music of Tribe provided us with the perfect jumping-off point.

i’m always interested in the kind of worship that resources such as ‘digital glass’ grow out of. would you like to share something of your experience of what it means to create relevant worship in our media-rich culture?

It is easy to confuse “emergent” worship with “media” worship. I think that the trap a lot of churches fall into when trying to transition is assuming that the use of a screen and digital projector is going to be the answer. Personally, the most powerful worship experiences I’ve had involved relatively little media usage. The key is to integrate media as a piece of the worship experience. Think of media as one of the threads with which to weave a rich tapestry. And the media has to be quality. In today’s world we are exposed to literally thousands of media messages every day, all produced with large advertising budgets and the latest technology. The media we use in the church has to be of similar quality, else we distract people from the message by the method.

‘concrete jesus’ is a great title for one of the sequences, and i think will challenge a lot of people’s perceptions of the kind of imagery used in worship – especially those who are just discovering the use of multimedia. was this a concious decision to do something different from the ‘beautiful nature scenes’ kind of worship video?

Absolutely. Most people don’t live in a beautiful mountain valley surrounded by wildlife and fluffy clouds. We live in communities. And communities, so matter how small or large, have difficulties and problems, tragedies and hardship. The concept of unconditional salvation and forgiveness is much more powerful when you apply it to real life instead of an idealized version of it. Yes, Concrete Jesus is challenging. Yes, its urban. Yes, its multiracial. But for a lot of people that’s life.

i’m sure you must have a favourite moment on the dvd that really speaks to you…?

Having been immersed in the creation of this DVD for over a year, it’s hard to choose a single moment. There’s a lot of me personally in Digital Glass. But the juxtaposition of Fernando Ortega’s gorgeously spiritual rendition of “Give Me Jesus” over the quick urban cuts in “Concrete Jesus” get me every time. There’s a driving pulse to life sometimes, but God is always there, too. thanks for your time peder.

i’d like to finish by asking what plans sally and the team at sacramentis.com have for the future. can we expect more worship resources like ‘digital glass’?

Well, we certainly hope so. If the response is as good as we hope it will be, there could be more volumes in the future. So stay tuned… I think the church is coming to a critical juncture with all of the changes occurring in the world. Both Sally and I see a lot of potential, and a lot of creative possibilities.