R.I.P. VCR: 2016. This year marked the end of the road for the venerable video cassette recorder. The very last VCR was produced by the Funai Corp. in July of this year. What has been a common fixture in nearly every home for over the past 30 years has gone the way of the Dodo. While it served us well during its time, it has been replaced by far superior technology in the form of Blu-ray players, streaming video, DVR playback devices and even virtual reality. I don’t expect the VCR to ever make a vinyl record type comeback either, because alongside the nostalgic aspect of vinyl, it is arguably better sounding than the convenient digital formats. I don’t think anyone will desire to watch grainy VCR recordings or sit and wait 5 minutes for a VCR tape to rewind, ever again. Fortunately, time marches on, and we are fortunate to enjoy the conveniences of modern innovation.
One thing that audio/video technology will never replace, is a live performance. Many years ago, a phone company used to boast that their connections were “the next best thing to being there.” Despite the incredible changes in wireless technology and even video calling, that still hasn’t changed. Sally and I are thrilled to converse with our daughter on a Skype video call while she is in San Francisco, but it is nothing like having her back home, and being able to embrace her. Watching the Buckeyes play on a 70 inch 4k flat screen television is incredible, but it is not even be close to the experience of watching the game in person with a roaring crowd. I have watched many concert videos on impressive a/v systems, but they don’t hold a candle to being on the front row of a Billy Joel concert where you feel the beat of the drums and hear the ambience of his voice echo throughout the auditorium as I did several years ago. Yes, there is nothing better than “being there.”
Technology has been very beneficial to churches as well. State of the art lighting, sound and video technology can help enhance the worship experience. Caution must be advised, however, that it doesn’t replace it. A growing trend among some churches is rather than have a pastor delivering a message to the congregation in person, on a given Sunday morning, an individual from another location preaches a sermon that is delivered via live video to a screen in front of another, or several other audiences in other locations. While this technology may be utilized during special occasions and events for some congregations, others may rely on it solely for their source of spiritual nurture for the week. That may work for some, but since I have always thought of the pastor as the shepherd for the flock who would also equip and be present with the members of the congregation, I am a bit uncomfortable with the practice. Perhaps some of you have participated in such a gathering of Christians. I haven’t had the opportunity, and I welcome your feedback.