Wednesday, October 7, 2015         


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Enlivening isle services

Projected images, music and more help church leaders better engage worshippers

By Pat Gee


Before Nuuanu Congregational Church started using an LCD projector during services, its members would have their heads buried in hymnals and Bibles, fumbling with pages and straining to see the fine print.

But now, when it's time to sing, "It's so convenient to look at the wall," said longtime member George Honjiwo. "When you're looking down, we're not projecting (our voices) much. Now we can clap at the same time, so that's more spontaneous. It's more upbeat in a sense.

"I'm 76 years old, but we all gotta keep up with new technology, anything that can enhance communication. The pastor makes a point of using film clips and to share pictures of what's going on in church we're not aware of. A picture is more dynamic. ... A picture says a thousand words."

Nuuanu Congregational was one of the few churches that attended a workshop last month on using technology and other creative ways to "jazz up their worship services," Paul Mark said on behalf of host Manoa Valley Church. The two-day training program was offered by Midnight Oil Productions, a Texas-based company that makes theological-based DVDs to inspire worship that appeals to today's digital culture, Mark said.

Anne Findlay-Chamberlain, Manoa pastor, said her services have been enlivened with the use of the tips suggested by Midnight Oil and its DVDs since last Christmas. Some of the DVDs offer moving images of a blue sky strewn with clouds, or a field of sunflowers, or an Easter-themed package. The church, affiliated with the United Church of Christ, has also upgraded its sound and light systems.

"We use image as a meta-narrative so people come away not only with words heard, but an image in their minds," Findlay-Chamberlain said. "Pastors try when we preach to use a story to make a complex idea more real for people, so now we're adding an image."

As she preaches, "we show some videos, sometimes with music," she said. "There's a saying: 'When we sing, we pray twice.' When using music, whether or not with words, it helps us pray or connect with the spiritual in a different way, a deeper way."

She added: "Our congregation's worship style is middle-of-the-road. We don't have a rock band and people are used to traditional hymns and praise songs." Findlay-Chamberlain said most of her 160 parishioners are open to the use of more music and video.

"But a minority asks, 'What happened to my church?' They're not comfortable with the changes. But we have to be uncomfortable if we want to welcome new people — that's one of our goals," she said.

Mary Paik, pastor at Nuuanu the past year and a half, said, "My interest is not so much in using technology but telling a story that is compelling, and I work very hard at making that happen every Sunday." She found the workshop suggestions helpful, but "it begs a lot of creativity on the part of the preacher."

Paik said she was skeptical about the focus on technology, but she wanted to use every available resource to make the worship team's job easier. They had been "doing everything from scratch" to make worship a multisensory experience.

In January, she began using movie clips to illustrate a point or a theme in her sermon, and putting song lyrics on the projector.

The LCD projector "helps a lot for many older people," said Honjiwo, an active member with wife Marjorie at Nuuanu since the mid-1960s. "The print for hymn books and the Bible is small. When it's right there on the wall, you can hear and see it at the same time. You don't have to fumble around in the Bible."

Paik has purchased some of Midnight Oil's DVDs and in a year will assess whether they need more equipment. More information is at

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