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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The edge of the stage lighting for a concert also can cut a line between the band and crowd, or in this case, the leaders and the congregation. There is a traditional equivalent here, as the edge of the light recalls the high altar that separates the priest. This visual separation shows the significance and holiness of the clergy and recognizes their anointing.

Some churches want to involve the congregation, more than to separate them from the preacher. One way to do so is to add color wash and motion effects onto and above the audience. Now the light is no longer concentrated, but shared freely. When done in time with the music, this can be a powerful visual to express the release of the Spirit during worship, as the whole body becomes involved.

As the drama builds, what was once a dark, still room, now floods with color and motion and life. Even the sound has gone from a quiet start, to the lone voice of the leader, to the whole church harmonizing together. The lighting swells around the congregation, finally bursting into brightness as the church crashes into the big chorus.

All this synchronized production declares the order of heaven, all of nature working together to proclaim the glory of the Lord. They sent the musicians before the armies in the Bible, and here again, we call back to the example of scripture in worship.

Break the Walls Down

Following the ornate church cathedrals, came a movement to be focused on a congregational experience. Stained glass barriers gave way to giant, clear windows. Reformation thinking asked, why has worship become so ornate and leader driven? The architecture of the time is noted by functional white buildings on the town common and simple, clear windows. This allows in the natural light like stained glass, but also lets congregants to look beyond the walls into the community. The message here is that there is a world beyond the church, in fact a world that needs the church.

Immediately, the core values suggested are outreach, evangelism, and community involvement. Out of concern for being too fancy, reformers sought to streamline the experience and focus on the simple nature of God.

The modern version still retains many of the characteristics of the early protestant style: Lots of windows and natural light, but with modern worship elements that make sense. Because of sunlight, or perhaps instead constant and unchanging house lights, the choices are forced to be simpler and clean. Focus is not drawn to excessive color, motion, or individual performance of a leader, because the bright white lights simply prevent it.

The worship team can be minimized in the stage design, as well by placing them off stage or to the side, allowing people to take in the simple décor, and the unobscured worship as one body undisturbed by the complexity of worldly influence.


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

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, January-February 2018
The January-February 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about the many steps a church had to take in the aftermath of a fire, and another involving a church making the jump to 4K.


Article Topics

Technology · Lighting · Visual Arts · Lighting Design · Team Management · Spiritual Health · Team Development · Culture · Language · Light Pollution · Lighting Design · Motion · Stained Glass Windows · All Topics

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