On any given Sunday, one can walk into St. Francis of Assisi Church in Colorado Springs and hear the congregation singing. But a closer look reveals that many of those people are not using hymnals.
Instead, they’re following lyrics and music projected onto two screens hung high on the church walls. Since the projection system was installed, the response from parishioners has been overwhelmingly positive, said Marianne Heiderscheidt, music director at the parish.
“All St. Francis parishioners who have talked to me about (the projection system) love it,” she said. “I have heard nothing negative.”
Financial considerations come into play when a church is deciding whether to install a projection system. Although the initial cost may be steep, parishes may save money in the long run by no longer having to purchase paper hymnals.
“Currently we have songbooks still in the pews, but as of November, we will only have about 50 available in a bookcase for those who want them,” Heiderscheidt said.
St. Francis of Assisi purchased the two screens and a projector for about $25,000, said Father Ken Przybyla, St. Francis pastor. He said that the screens were worth the investment, in part because it makes the church more welcoming to visitors.
Currently, several churches in the diocese have projection systems, but not all of them use them for music. Some parishes, such as Holy Apostles, use them to give the congregation a close-up view of liturgical events like baptisms or to display video messages, such as those for the Returning God’s Gifts appeal.
St. Patrick Church uses a projection system to display music for Mass, but rather than projecting onto a screen, lyrics for hymns are displayed on the walls of the church. Music director Becky Gaughan said that, when the projection system was first proposed, she was unenthusiastic because she thought it would be a distraction. But after seeing the results, she’s had a change of heart.
For one thing, voices project better when people’s faces aren’t tilted down towards hymnals, Gaughan said. And music isn’t the only thing that can be projected; during the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, images of crosses from around the world were shown.
“I really think it deepens the prayer,” she said. The projection system also helps to cut down on talking in church before Mass by displaying a message asking people to use the time to prepare for the Eucharist, Gaughan added.