Language of Light: Using Visuals to Communicate Culture

In modern worship, we can use visual language that draws upon 2,000 years of church history, and generations of culture.

Language of Light: Using Visuals to Communicate Culture
Lighting and projection help communicate the church's mission during a recent worship service at Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Credit: Tom Neforas for Crossroads Community Church

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Language of Light: Using Visuals to Communicate Culture

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Language of Light: Using Visuals to Communicate Culture

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For Lighting Design, What Software Is The Right Match For Your Needs? (Part 3)
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This worship space was that of a cathedral style, with 60-foot ceilings and the layout of a cross if viewed from above. So right away, the architecture focuses you on the work of the cross. The size and grandeur of the room would speak immediately about the glory of God. At the altar, we had a beautiful hand carved crucifix, a golden tabernacle, incense burning (The hazer of liturgical church) and several life-sized statues of Mary and St. Cecelia (patron saint of church production? She is the saint of music…).

The lighting was simple, never stealing attention from the artwork. The consistent look of the space before, during and after service encouraged visitors to explore the space for themselves and ponder the life of Christ. While there were plenty of simple white lights for the altar, the main light for Sunday morning services was 40-plus feet of colorful stained glass, with the resurrection at the center of everything as sunlight poured over the altar.

Stained Glass and Rock Star Leaders

Stained glass and windows in general are an awesome expression of theology in lighting design. Stain glass allows the building to close off the outside world and replace it with a vision of heaven. Even if it’s a simple single color instead of a detailed picture, the effect of cutting off the church body from worldly, sinful influence is clear. Holiness and biblical separation are the key values for these churches.

We’ve carried this over into the modern worship setting, with projectors and concert-style lighting. Like stained glass, separation is a key value. In many cases, we’ve completely removed all windows to avoid light pollution.

Again, we’re communicating a difference between the church and the world.

Interestingly, the feel of a concert setting at church also creates a relatable, fun vibe that borrows pop culture looks. People can see something separated, but relatable. Or “in the world, but not of the world,” if you prefer.

Concert lighting brings in a whole new set of visual language for an audience to absorb, this time from TV. It’s a language they have learned from countless rock stars and Broadway shows. These are larger than life figures. Using this language in church makes our leadership feel important.

Spotlights on a singer or preacher immediately imparts presence and authority.

After all, only important people on TV get spotlights.


More About Adrian Gates
Adrian Gates is the Media Director for Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In his 16 years as a media professional, Adrian has served many different roles, including music producer, web master, videographer, consultant, social media “expert,” sound guy, lighting guy, stage hand, and roadie. His clients have included some of the largest tech companies in the world, New England churches looking to modernize, and dedicated weekend warriors. Adrian is a graduate of the New England Institute of Art and Communications.
Get in Touch: mediaservices@crossroadsconnects.com    More by Adrian Gates

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Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.


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