Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lights, camera, churches

Image via NAB Show
Tailored to houses of worship, the audio/visual technology industry has its own niche that focuses on sound systems, projectors and lighting for religious services.
During last weekend's trip to Vegas, I crashed the NAB Show, a National Association of Broadcasters convention for digital media professionals. With the help of a map of the vast convention hall and Matt's spy skills (he was actually registered) I chatted with professionals about technology's role in the "worship experience."
As churches grow, congregations are adding energy to church services with sound systems and video projections, said Michelle Makariak of Technologies for Worship Magazine. TFWM follows the AV industry for upgrades that will work best in churches.
It's not just megachurches who are eyeing projection systems and flashy lighting, she said. Even smaller churches are upgrading so worship bands sound better and pastors can record sermons to post online. At the conference, businesses offered projection systems for worship lyrics, acoustics installation, portable stages and lighting concepts.
Churches are also looking for ways to communicate outside the walls of the church. They're talking about establishing successful blogs and using "virtual churches" to reach congregants around the world.
Streaming Church is a Web portal that allows churches to post videos of services, provides chat rooms for congregants attending from home and keeps track of visitors around the country. President Steve Lacy said Streaming Church is designed to ease people into new churches and keep them connected outside Sunday services.
"Those who are intimidated might be more willing to check it out online before going through the doors not knowing what to expect," he said.
Online, people can watch services, chat, follow the pastors on sites like Twitter and even donate money with the click of a button. If they like what they see, hopefully they will attend the church regularly in person, he said.
"We don't want them spending most of their time online, unless they can't physically be there," he said.
Some of Streaming Church's U.S. clients have used the platform to reach African communities, who set up outdoor churches and follow the streaming services with the help of a projector and computer monitor.
“It’s still about getting people together,” he said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe... Vegas style

Here's a funny souvenir kiosk we saw on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The framed art was actually flashing and changing colors-- apparently, even Mary and Jesus get the Vegas treatment there.

Sunday in Sin City

Hi friends! I just got back from Las Vegas, where I spent a fun weekend with friends and even won some money! ($2.34, to be exact.)
After two days of Vegas-y action, Matt and I decided to venture off the strip for a different experience. Along the way, we stopped at this church on the strip whose services were just getting out.
On an impulse, we walked in. As soon as I smelled that church smell, I realized it had been a long time since I'd gone to church at all. After all that time, church smell is kind of comforting: a mix of air conditioner, old lady perfume and clean carpet.
I went into the alcove to light a candle for my grandmother who passed away when I was in high school--something I seem to do only when traveling. During my trip to Prague, I lit a candle for her at the epically gorgeous St Nicholas Church, where the ceilings dripped with gold. This time around, the church was much more plain but had its own sense of flair: in true Vegas fashion, traditional prayer candles were replaced with electric flames you switch on with a toggle! The alcove looked like its own Las Vegas casino sign with the rows of lit up electric candles.
The experience was a little ironic given Vegas's reputation as Sin City, but in a city of 558,880 people, there have to be a few who don't hold church down at the bar.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A lazy Saturday with the Virgin Mary

I had an uncommon and serendipitous experience at my neighborhood bar a few weekends ago: I talked religion and pop culture with a stranger as we sipped beers and tried to ignore bad 90's rap blasting from the speakers.
The topic of conversation? The powerful image of the Virgin Mary. Oft-featured in ironic, reverent, fucked-up and inspired ways, the Virgin Mary is instantly visually recognizable. My new drinking companion put it best when he said that no matter what an artist does to her--tie her up, cut her or place roses at her feet -- her presence makes the image a powerful statement that goes beyond merely "religious."
I've been seeing some beautiful, unusual Virgin Mary art on Etsy, the online marketplace of handmade goodies designed by talented folks who often work out of their bedrooms and home offices.
I'm particularly in love with this image from Illustrated Ink, a bevy of tattoo goodness with a focus on Dia De Los Muertos designs.
Some of my other favorite shops to find Virgin Mary jewelry and iconography include Sweetheart Sinner (whose bold pendants also feature Edgar Allen Poe and David Bowie) and Jammerdesignz, who paint designs on each image with teeny-tiny brushes.