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Worship, Learning, and Technology

by Sharon Ely Pearson

You’ve seen them – lecterns with a cut-out for an iPad for reading scripture or keeping your sermon notes, hymnals in e-book form to bring with you in worship, worship services projected on large screens so that books and paper are not needed. There is an increasing number of “apps” to help us pray the daily office, keep a liturgical calendar on our hand-held device, and the bible-verse-a-day. More and more curricula are being designed to be downloaded and/or used totally online. The Catholic News Service reported that a new iPad application won’t take the place of liturgical books, but many clergy prefer them over large books, with small print on worn pages. iPulpit has been developed by Little Mountain Productions.

How is this impacting worship? How is this offering new opportunities for learning? Or does technology take away from corporate worship and formative learning?

The Detroit News recently wrote about the growing trend of technology in worship settings across a variety of faith communities:

In the Sikh community, followers often take advantage of apps such as Gurbani Anywhere, which can translate prayers into English. “It is very useful and innovative,” said Kabeer Singh, 18, a college student from West Bloomfield Township.

Sikhs also are aided during services at their worship sites, known as gurdwaras, with SikhiTotheMAX, a software that projects onto screens translations and transliterations of the Guru Granth Sahib sacred text.

For youths and others needing help, “apps and software definitely are playing a huge role in the learning/understanding of scriptures for Sikhs,” said Jasvir Singh, who is active with the Sikh Society of Michigan.

The Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ has also noted an uptick in technological use — including social media during services, said Campbell Lovett, its conference minister. “It’s definitely becoming more acceptable. … Maybe cellphones and tablets and some of the new media are this generation’s new stained glass: ways we tell a story.”

Some experts consider the trend another way for religious communities to remain as modern as their devotees.

“Today, churches and religions are challenged to find the appropriate metaphors to maximize the new opportunities that media presents and come to terms with a fundamental shift in reading practices that digitality has brought about,” said Daniel Ramirez, an assistant professor of North American religious history at the University of Michigan.

Building Faith has recently shared new models of learning using online tools. ChurchNext is one that is mentioned in the above article. Since its launch this summer, there are now over 200 congregations who have built their own “school” using this resource. Moving Online for Formation featured how one church developed a new model called, Hopeful Imagination.

One thing is for sure – technology is rapidly changing and churches need to keep abreast of the latest gadgets (and preferences) our members use in their daily life.

How do you use technology in worship and/or education?

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