Sunday, July 7, 2013

Futurist Liturgy, Google Glasses and the TMI Culture

Futurist Liturgy, Google Glasses   and the TMI Culture

            A few weeks ago, I was listening to an extremely respected, high tech market guru discussing the emerging digital wear market. More specifically, he was reporting on Google Eye Glasses focus group studies and the amazing positive feedback.

            It is difficult for an old timer like me to imagine that people will get excited about wearing Internet glasses throughout the day, but they are. In focus groups, users have found the glasses really cool. When a new technology is really cool, it is a win. The guru said that when he tested them, it was an exciting experience of being totally immersed in a live, dynamic digital cylinder.

Immediately, I recalled the Marshal McLuhan lesson of the Media is the Massage.  Not even McLuhan imagined that we would go beyond the Media is the Massage, but we have. With the coming of wear digital technology, especially the Google eye glasses, we are moving into the age of the total media Immersion. Total Media Immersion (TMI) means that we are in a constant digital cylinder of visual, text, and sound where all the senses are constantly touched. It is the ecstasy of the digital information cylinder.

Moving into a culture of TMI has serious and pressing implications for our Episcopal style of heavily print-dominated, historical symbols and ancient vestments liturgy. It just does not fit well into the immersion culture. Expecting young people under 25 to participate in a print-dominated liturgy is like asking them to watch a black and white Roy Rogers western movie with Chinese sub-titles.

As we move into the TMI culture, we need a new way of Episcopal worship. Perhaps we might begin by experimenting seriously with page 400 in the Book of Common Prayer, An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist.  I suggest we should change the instructions for this rite to It is recommended as the principal emerging style of worship for Sunday and weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the TMI culture.

In this style of worship, we would worship in a suitable room with a simple altar prepared for the celebrating the Eucharist. It is a plain room with comfortable chairs but on the white wall behind the altar, the celebration begins with an energetic spiritual projection of video art and music. Keyboard, wind, string and percussion musicians, praise singers and a soloist could be a part of the service.

The entire liturgy is built around concrete, spiritual, thematic preaching that is reinforced in the prayers. It is also supported by contemporary, easy to sing music like Sweet, Sweet Spirit, Blessed Assurance and inspiring solos similar to Love Lifted Me. Spiritually energetic video art is not just on the back wall, but it appears throughout the service, filling even the side walls with images and metaphors of glory, celebration, loving compassion, etc. There are no vestments. People distribute the bread and wine to their fellow parishioners. There is no need for special appointed and approved ministers. Some of the prayers are from the celebrant, but most are from the congregation and are casual, spontaneous and heartfelt.

These are only suggestions, but I believe that we must begin to think in this manner. I am curious if any of our readers have similar feelings about the new direction for liturgy in the age of the Google glasses.  





  1. Just read the new essay, very thoughtful and creative, Bill. Thanks.

  2. Thanks, Bill. Miss you guys!

  3. Hi there,

    I'm not "under 25", but I am 33 and am part of a parish that is growing and attracting a lot of people under 30. The under-30 crowd is flocking to the parish precicely because of the ancient liturgy that includes the vestments, ancient chant/organ/choral music, and what you call a "'print-dominated' liturgy." It's much more than that, and they're coming for other reasons too (a place with excellent programming for their kids, a strong community, vibrant clergy staff, welcoming to all including gays and lesbians, etc), but were it not for the anchor of the liturgy, I don't think they'd come to begin with.

    The thought of a "Rite III" liturgy with contemporary music, no offense intended, isn't even remotely attractive to most young folks. Ironically, our traditional service has a much lower average age than the contemporary service.

    I'll try to come back and envision what the futurist liturgy looks like from my perspective. It may be tonight after work.

  4. Thanks Bill for your thoughtful piece. I believe that there are parishes present and in the future that will embrace your vision of an "informal" liturgy with media applications. I also think that many parishes, like cathedrals in particular, that will successfully continue using the liturgy that the church has authorized. Ultimately it will be the choice of the Rector and the congregation. What this has to say about the future of TEC is beyond my comprehension. I have a hunch that the church will continue to decline regardless of what kind of liturgy congregations celebrate.

  5. Bob, Marshal McLuhan used to say, "The best way to predict the future is to say that it will be an awful lot like the present." I allows predict from a state of nature i.e. I give most predictions a 50/50 % chance. So, Bob how long do you predict that Cathedrals will survive the emerging digital culture of Google Glasses.

  6. I think it's good to explore new digital options for worship (through Google glasses cultural eyes) and the culture of the young. I also think it good to really look at our traditional worship and discern (not through rose colored glasses) what is of value to keep. It's all about managing creative transformation, not reacting to the latest, which tomorrow may be completely disappeared. Humor helps.

  7. yes, yes Lyn you get the point; it is all about deconstructionism. At least, this is my perspective on the meaning of an Episcopal Journey of Hope

  8. Thanks for providing recent updates regarding the concern, I look forward to read more. lasik Michigan