Lights, Camera, Liturgy!
After eight months of trying to recreate traditional liturgy online during the pandemic, the Rev. Jon Stratton is looking at worship through a new lens.
The rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in the Central West End featured a short, self-produced video titled “Blue Candle: An Advent Story” as part of his online worship service on November 29, the first Sunday of Advent.
The video is shot in black and white, is mostly silent, and runs just under 10 minutes. It features a frustrated priest (played by Stratton) trying to extinguish an advent candle that mysteriously keeps lighting.
“I wanted to create something that would be whimsical and help people laugh a little,” said Fr. Jon. “The message is: no matter what is going on, the light of Christ is persistent.”
His audience on Facebook got the message and loved the creativity.
“My faith in the idea that ‘God is always going to show up’ is one of the few things that have sustained me in the dark world in which we live,” commented Brian Alms.
Nancy Emmel wrote, “I love the black and white, film noir effect!”
Machelle West added, “Yes, Jonathan Hitchcock is good!”
Fr. Jon said he has been watching old movies since he was a little boy. He especially loves films by Italian director Federico Fellini, who, according to Wikipedia, is known for “his distinctive style of blending fantasy and baroque images with earthiness.” Fr. Jon believes storytelling through movies can generate strong emotions in viewers. He hopes to create a new film with his Canon camcorder each week in Advent to bring the biblical themes home in a new way.
These films are just a part of the changes happening in Trinity’s Sunday worship services. Fr. Jon is also adding recorded interviews featuring the people and ministries in his parish. The rector said his changes were inspired by Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright, who was a guest speaker at an online diocesan clergy chat in November. Bishop Wright said that our traditional liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer doesn’t always translate to a computer screen. He encouraged Fr. Jon and the other clergy at the meeting to think of new ways to engage their congregations.
“I’m not going to pretend to do Sunday morning services anymore,” Fr. Jon said. I think you have to embrace the medium you’re working with. What works on a computer screen? A show does. Why not move to that format?”
Of course, you will still find the biblical readings, hymns, prayers, and a sermon every week in Trinity’s worship presentations. And Fr. Jon says he is encouraging his members to engage in the traditional liturgy at home by offering new prayer resources every day on Trinity’s website.
“This isn’t going to replace liturgy,” Fr. Jon says. “You can do liturgy at home and we’ll do it again in church when it’s safe. Until then, I got tired of pretending.”
Watch Fr. Jon’s film “Blue Candle: An Advent Story” below and on YouTube:
Watch the entire Nov. 29 worship presentation on Facebook:
Visit Trinity's website: