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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When you are driving at night, and suddenly see blue lights moving in your rearview mirror, do you stare and wonder what this means, or do you just pull over?

Like stained glass, separation is a key value. In many cases, we’ve completely removed all windows to avoid light pollution.

We start learning a wide vocabulary of visual language at an early age. Light alone can tell us how to behave, act, and feel.

Those flashing blue lights makes one recall a scenario that you’ve studied in school, seen on TV, and associated with feelings for years. You’ll run through a mental checklist of what you will say when the police officer comes to your window. And you may feel relief when they pass you on the way to some other driver down the road.

By using lighting language, lighting designers can speak to their audience with a vocabulary as powerful as a speaker. We respond to lighting all the time, at both conscious and subconscious levels. So what is your design saying?

What should we say? In modern worship, we can use visual language that draws upon 2,000 years of church history, generations of culture, or Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl halftime performance (It was memorable. Those drones, right?). While using pop culture is maybe the best way to ride the zeitgeist, think about what parts of the artist you are emulating that support your mission and vision as a church body.

Whether choosing something deeply spiritual or something you saw on TV, the choices you make tell your audience who you are.

By looking at the lights during a service, you can learn many things about the church, such as how the leaders relate to the congregation, what the church believes about order and direction, and whether it is driven by evangelism, Biblical separation, liturgy, or relational openness to the unchurched.

As we discuss a few examples, please know I’m not making a positive or negative judgement about these theological concepts.

We are many parts of one body.

Let’s look at some scenarios and what they might communicate to your guests.

Where Our Design Choices Began

I’m the media director of a Pentecostal church that uses big modern worship, but I grew up in liturgical traditions. Even those supposedly traditional spaces have a common language of light with origins and symbolism from before there was even electricity.

When I was a boy growing up at St. Cecelia’s parish in Leominster, Massachusetts, the sheer presence of the church was always stunning. The architecture, artwork, and light worked tightly together, all aspects of visual design converging to express the values of the church.


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

For Lighting Design, What Software Is The Right Match For Your Needs? (Part 3)
Dig into this final part of a three-part series that looks into choices for lighting design software, including Vectorworks and LightConverse, and how each can best serve the needs of your church.


Article Topics

Technology · Lighting · Visual Arts · Lighting Design · Team Management · Spiritual Health · Team Development · Clergy · Color · Congregation · Culture · Language · Light Pollution · All Topics

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