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August 24, 2011

iPads at Saint Matthew’s

by Rev. A. J. Iovine
iPad wordmark.

Image via Wikipedia

Whenever we print out hymns in our weekly bulletin, I always receive complaints about either size of the text or questions over why would we print out the hymns when we have a hymnal in the pews. My answer to these questions are simple and direct: We print out new hymns in our weekly bulletin, those found in the Lutheran Service Book, in order to expand the number of hymns we sing. As with most churches, we here at Saint Matthew’s sing “our favorites” more often than not. The new LSB provides us the opportunity to sing new Christ-centered hymns that hopefully will become our favorites as time goes by. Yes, sometimes the type is smaller, but we’re working on it. Printing out hymns is a legitimate question, especially since we have decent-looking hymnals in our pews that aren’t falling apart and it contain nearly all of the hymns the congregation loves to sing within its pages.

In our pews, we have the blue Lutheran Worship hymnals. When the Lutheran Service Book was published, my church considered purchasing the new hymnals. However, the biggest reason we didn’t buy hundreds of new hymnals wasn’t centered around the cost — it centered around two overarching matters:

1. The hymnals we had in the pews were and are in good condition. Why should we spend thousands of dollars on new hymnals when the books we have are just fine?

2. We are going into the future – isn’t there a different way we could use the new LSB in new and differing formats without using books?

OK, I admit, the second question was one I raised, though I was very supportive of the majority at my church that raised the first question. Concordia Publishing House was introducing what I considered a ‘publishing revolutionary product’ — a purchasable copyright that covered nearly everything within the LSB and other LCMS-supported hymnals. That meant we could legally print out the liturgy each week along with hymns and would not need to use a book. Additionally, this copyright would allow for what I call “in-church digital distribution,” or what some people call “Powerpoint presentations.” Considering Saint Matthew’s doesn’t have screens in our sanctuary, this really wasn’t on my mind. However, the publishing aspect thrilled me.

At the time we were discussing the LSB, there were rumors over some ‘super secret Apple product’ that would dramatically change the way we interact, and of course, those rumors turned out to be true with the introduction of the iPad in 2010. But with the advent of the Kindle, the question I had was simple: Everything is going digital; why can’t our worship life move there too?

After the iPad was introduced, we started creating a series of “electronic bulletins” that could be used in church. I was the first person at Saint Matthew’s with an iPad, and nearly every week since we introduced this digital bulletin format, I have used it during our worship services. As we’ve been building our new church website, we’ve uploaded the weekly digital bulletin for use in church. It includes everything we have in our handout, but also all the hymns – whether typed or with music accompaniment. There have been several people at Saint Matthew’s who have used these digital bulletins in our worship service. Recently, we’ve finally updated our “Saint Matthew’s Matters” portion of our new website and our weekly announcement section (as printed in church) is now available for download, as well.

As we go forward with our digital life here at Saint Matthew’s, all of our publications will be digitized and we will be urging people to access them online. This is a good thing, since we’ll be able to add information and links to our bulletins that will allow everyone the opportunity to learn about why we worship as we do at Saint Matthew’s and in the LCMS.

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