25 January 2004

Cake or Death?

I went to Church this evening with some friends. Not to the usual church, which is the Catholic Church of the Holy Name on Oxford Road.*

This evening I went along to Holy Trinity Platt, an evangelical Anglican church where my friends usually go. I went along with Marlisa, Ben, and Sarah as my friend Eddie was due to be preaching this evening. I haven't mentioned Eddie here in a while. He was a tutor in my hall, who actually introduced me to my room when I first arrived here, lonely and mildly the worse for wear; he left just over a year ago, to live in York and work on his PhD thesis, which despite all evidence to the contrary, was not about potatoes. He says.

The service was odd. Nice, but odd. I couldn't help but be struck by the absence of structure, of that clear shape whereby there's a liturgy of the Word and a liturgy of the Eucharist, each part featuring elements of consecration and of communion. What's more, I found myself eyeing the prayers and hymns like a hawk -- not that hawks sings hymns, but if birds of prey actually prayed, that's what they'd do -- to ensure I wasn't saying something doctrinally very dodgy.

Eddie's sermon, on Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians, 2.17-3.13, was interesting, though I've a couple of things I'll want to take up with him at some point.

One thing about it appalled me. As we took our seats and sat down at the start of the service I noticed a large screen behind the pulpit, with a black blue screen projected upon it. "Oh no," I muttered, "If there's going to be a PowerPoint presentation, I'm going home." Marlisa reassured me that that would probably be to project the words to hymns upon. "Hmmm." I replied, unconvinced and wary.

Well, she was right. It was indeed to project the words to hymns on; I can see the value in that. Just about. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. I was right too. Eddie clambered up onto the pulpit and as he spoke those cursed bullet points appeared. Really.

Afterwards, as we were leaving, I shook my head as I shook Eddie's hand. "Powerpoint!" I snorted, and then grinned, and said I'd liked his talk.

I wasn't being mean, I just hate PowerPoint, and have only ever seen it used well once. It's really just a tool, but tends to become a substitute for thought, or even for delivering a well-crafted speech. After all, how many of history greatest speeches would really have worked if they were delivered as PowerPoint presentations?

Let's put it another way. Would Christianity have taken off had Jesus delivered The PowerPoint Presentation on the Mount and Paul lashed off his First E-Mail to the Thessalonians?

(To be fair to Eddie, who popped round with Hannah for a cup of tea later -- which was a lovely surprise, he had just wanted to speak and hadn't wanted to do the presentation; that had been urged upon him. Why do people think this is a good thing?)

* Um, when I say 'my usual church', I do so in a blushing and guilty sense, as I go far less often than I should. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman describe this attitude rather well in Good Omens
"Not that he was a, you know, left-footer or anything like that. No, when he came to avoiding going to church, the church he stolidly avoided going to was Cecil and All Angels, no-nonsense C of E, and he wouldn't have dreamed of avoiding going to any other. All the others had the wrong smell -- floor polish for the Low, somewhat suspicious incense for the High. Deep in the leather armchair of his soul, Mr Young knew that God got embarrassed at that sort of thing."

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