Chester Cathedral carbon neutral: No printed worship aids

Chester Cathedral in Cheshire, England posts the following at their website:

Chester Cathedral is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, and has, since 2019, ceased printing documents for one-time use.  Therefore, if you are attending a service in the Cathedral, please download the Service Sheet (available below) to a suitable device and bring that with you to the service.  Alternatively, service notes are now displayed on large screens within the service.

One is curious what the large screens look like.


    1. Over the years observing U.S. Episcopal liturgies, I’ve noticed a trend. As their options became more diverse, allowing alternatives to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and hymnal supplements, lengthy printed worship aids became more common. I think the Rite Brain software was introduced in the ’90s, which allowed one to easily pick and choose things from various resources to arrange sequentially for printing. So projecting these things on screens may be more carbon-neutral than printing leaflets (although as Karl points out, electronic devices are hardly carbon-neutral), it may be less so than the old method of having two permanent books in the pew racks and putting numbers up on the hymn board. This is something with which I’ve wrestled in preparing music for Catholic liturgies. Printed worship aids allow more use of the church’s treasury in the Latin language; if comprehension is the issue, a printed translation solves that challenge. But one Catholic church may have multiple Masses with large attendance, and potentially various musical approaches, which makes the challenge greater. My Luddite inclinations say that screens are not the answer – and asking people to pull out their devices may encourage them to be distracted from the liturgy. You will note, too, the absence of any musical notation in Chester’s program, which is certainly easier to project but hinders the development of musical literacy, and thus full participation. I am curious what others have done to wrestle with these challenges. I will note also that with the recent textual changes, along with the promised lectionary revision coming in 2026, as well as the promised revision of the English LOH, publishers are more reluctant to publish permanent books, and more likely to issue seasonal or annual issues that must be disposed of.

    1. Yes, unlike Hereford Cathedral, Chester Cathedral kept its screen by George Gilbert Scott, which complements the famous late 14th century stalls in its Quire.

      1. Thankfully, yes, Karl Liam. If (Roman) churches are contemplating or looking to install screens (as mentioned in a previous post), I’m all for it: rood screens, choir screens, chancel screens, jubé, or even icon screens. Put ’em in and build ’em high. 🙂

  1. Chester Cathedral is a Grade 1 Listed building. Any alterations to the fabric of the building has to get permission or a criminal offence is committed. That would certainly include attaching screens to the ancient fabric.

    1. In my experience, with RC churches in England and Wales, screens have been given the necessary faculty when there is the assurance that they are not permanent items and can be removed without damage to the fabric.

      Od course if we had done what Vatican II said and ensured a gregorian chant ‘deposit’ of knowledge among our people, and maintained cantors and choirs, neither screens nor books nor printed ‘participation aids’ would be necessary. We seem to have done without them for centuries until we became liturgically illiterate.


  2. As already pointed out, tech is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Mining for rare minerals, the subsequent refining processes, and the like, required to produce tech, leave Mordor-like landscapes and industrial pollution. In fact, responsible paper production that uses clean technology can be a sustainable and eco friendly choice.

  3. An additional problem in Anglicanism (because of the prayer book) is screens and printed aids are ‘curated’ liturgy. They remove the prayers, options, psalms, catechism, and the juxtapositions of rites from the hands of the baptized, removing an aid to prayer, to catechesis, and to ritual engagement

  4. An additional problem in any denomination is the lack of flexibility. If you, as a musician, are listening to the homily and realize that a different hymn would be more appropriate than the one you selected, it is easy to change in the middle of a service if hymn books or similar resources are being used. Even if you need to notify choir members, this can be done. It’s essentially no different from what happens if the priest forgets that there’s a Gloria and proceeds directly to the collect.

    None of this is possible with a pre-packaged PowerPoint projected on a screen.

    1. Not sure this argument really has much force – how often does it arise in reality, and is changing plans at the last minute really right for liturgy? It’s an argument against organists/cantors/choirs rehearsing, as much as against preparing (on line or printed) worship aids. I’m not sure that the hymn book really has a central or immutable role in Catholic worship.

      1. I don’t think it’s an argument against rehearsing. The work put in by choirs, cantors and organists is not wasted. It will be used and prove its worth on another occasion — just not this one. (It’s important that the musicians know this, so that resentment does not build up.)

        As for how often it arises in reality, I can state that during the period October 2020 to September 2021, when choirs could not function in the building where I was playing the organ, the cantor and organist ministering at these Masses changed some of what would be sung in the light of what was said in the homily, or even the priest’s introductory remarks, on a significant number of occasions.

        That may just be one set of cases but, In addition to the presider forgetting the Gloria, mentioned above, a more common scenario is when there is not enough time for all the music planned and rehearsed for the distribution of Communion, or the music for the inscription of names at the Rite of Election, or all the verses of a processional hymn…. The list goes on. Flexibility should ideally be one of the attributes of all pastoral musicians.

  5. Actually, the printed worship aid is a carbon sink. In order to generate the cellulose necessary to create the paper, the tree must have taken carbon dioxide out of the air, combined it with water and formed the necessary hydro-carbon. If we wanted to diminish the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we would use paper, plant new trees to replace the ones we cut down, and bury the used worship aid under ground to sequester the carbon.

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