July 25, 2008

The Final Report and Final Thanks

The end has come! ... for this project.

Thank you so much to everyone that has helped, contributed, showed interest or in any way been encouragement to me through doing this project. A special thanks goes to all those that completed my survey.

Sorry it has taken so long to wrap things up, but I couldn't post the report until exams/results/etc were over. Apologies if you have been waiting to see the final report.

The report can be downloaded below. It is a large PDF file (2.21 MB, 106 pages), so I recommend you download it for 'offline' viewing rather than open it within your internet browser. To do this, right-click the link below and select 'Save Link As...' or 'Save Target As...'.

The Final Report

The report is pretty long, sorry about that! If youare looking for the results of the questionnaire survey, skip straight to page 90 (appendix D) for the summary of the results in the form of colourful graphs, tables, etc. Chapter 3 (page 17) discusses the results and the rest of my research in more detail. I recommend this chapter to anyone interested in the current state of IT in churches and how it could, or perhaps should, be better used. The rest is basically the report on the academic work I have done for this project.

The report refers to a CD that was submitted for marking with the report, unfortunately I cannot distribute this. However, the links on this blog for PSALM have been updated with the submitted version. A few bugs have been fixed since the previous update, but little else. You can download PSALM here.

Finally, thank you to my supervisor, Steve Russ, for all his help in advising me and guiding this project.

April 02, 2008

Beware the Recommend Button!


Computers to merge with humans?

That's probably a misleading headline, but the idea that we will use machines more and more for tasks is almost certainly going to be true. It already is. But it's not necessarily an unqualified good thing. The article mentions 'the widespread introduction of the calculator - widely blamed for a fall in the standard of mental arithmetic'.

Now, how is this relevant to my project? Well, actually that calculator example is a perfect example I want to use.

As we now use calculators, we have far less need for mental arithmetic. Yes, there is still a place for it, but surely there's no denying that so many of us just don't have the mental arithmetic skills we could have if it wasn't for calculators & other machines that can do maths for us.

In the same way, there is a very real danger that using programs like my own PSALM could blunt 'worship-leading' skills. In my own experience, I have found that having PSALM available to use means that I can be less reliant on my own memory of songs, and worse, less reliant on 'Spirit-led' worship.

Now if you're reading this blog from the technical point of view, and don't understand what I mean by 'Spirit-led worship' - I apologise. This post is really aimed at potential users of the software, 'lead worshippers' in churches. I'll warn you now that this post will begin to get a bit theological (controversial?!) from here...

But if you do know what I mean by 'Spirit-led worship' - or think you should - read on.

PSALM has a role in finding that song that you can only a few lines of, or perhaps in finding songs that fit a certain theme while being in the right key. Great. But leading worship should not be a computer's job. God should conduct our meetings, using us by his grace. Choosing songs, for example, should not be a case of 'this is my favourite song... and this next song follows on nicely'. Instead, we should be prayerfully asking God what He wants to emphasise/do/'anoint' in corporate worship. 

So anyway, the purpose of this post is to warn against becoming reliant on technology such as PSALM, or anything that could reduce God's role in worship. If you're using PSALM, or thinking about it, be carefu! Watch out for changes in the way you prepare/lead/engage in worship. Better worship does not necessarily come from better prepared, or slicker transitions between songs!! 

April 01, 2008

An aside: Donald Knuth

Read this post: http://scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=303

All about Donald Knuth, the computer science legend extraordinaire. 

Wikipedia states 'Knuth has been called the "father" of the analysis of algorithms', but he has done so much more in his life. 

In fact...

- Knuth had a Christian upbringing, and published a book called '3:16' that delved into the Bible - by random sampling (examining chapter 3/verse 16 of each book in the bible)

- He developed the TeX system (I am writing my project report in LaTeX)

- He has a quality sense of humour! Start from Knuth's home page and Wikipedia, and you'll see what I mean. If you're geeky. And especially if you might even enjoy geeky Christian jokes!

This man is inspirational, and as a Christian Computer Scientist, he has made my day. :-)

(thanks to James Silver to distracting me with this!) 

March 21, 2008


I forgot to say in the last post - please be on the look out for problems/issues/ideas you have after using the latest version of PSALM. Contact me with your comments, they will be much appreciated :-)

And in the mini-tradition of this blog, below is another actual Psalm to go along with the latest release. In a rather tenuous link, this is Psalm 33 (from the New Century Version of the Bible - only verses 1-9 shown here) to go with PSALM version 3...!

Sing to the Lord, you who do what is right;
    honest people should praise him.
Praise the Lord on the harp;
    make music for him on a ten-stringed lyre.
Sing a new song to him;
    play well and joyfully.

God's word is true,
    and everything he does is right.
He loves what is right and fair;
    the Lord's love fills the earth.

The sky was made at the Lord's command.
    By the breath from his mouth, he made all the stars.
He gathered the water of the sea into a heap.
    He made the great ocean stay in its place.
All the earth should worship the Lord;
    the whole world should fear him.
He spoke, and it happened.
    He commanded, and it appeared.

By the way, the 'ten-stringed lyre' was a kind of ancestor of the modern guitar. Hopefully PSALM will aid people to "make music for him on a ten-stringed lyre. Sing a new song to him; play well and joyfully" - He deserves it and far more! :-)

March 20, 2008


The 'final' version of PSALM is now complete and available for download. This is the version that was shown in my project presentation, and may still change slightly when further testing is done to fix bugs. This is it for features though. (At least for this project... My current church (Jubilee Coventry) and a church affiliated to my parent's church (Oxford Community Church) have both expressed interest in using either my program, or in using something that my program may evolve into the solution for.)

The main new feature in this 'proper' third & final increment is the song recommender. Build your setlist (the bottom-left list), and click 'recommend' to open up a new dialog. Here, you can choose whether the next song should share chords (making it easy to flow between songs), be of a certain theme(s), or even have been played before in setlist history (see the history.xml file included in the download - this is my record of most of the 'sets' I have personally played in over the last 12 months). You can alter how important each of these factors should be in compiling the recommendations, as well as how strict the recommender should be (ie. returning more/less results). 

Hopefully, that explains how to use it. Before you jump into using it though, PLEASE note that this is just a tool, nothing more. If you are thinking of using my program - or any other computer tool - to run/guide/build your set, or even church service, think again. It is imperative that the 'Worship Leader' is in fact God. And he uses people to conduct these services. He did not choose computers to do it. There is far more to worshipping God than choosing a bunch of songs that 'fit criteria' like the way my program might see it. Read 'I did it His way' by Tim Hughes - this explains more of what I mean. The Holy Spirit should be conducting our worship of God, not any computer program, let alone mine!!!

At the heart of what I have built, is a desire to worship God 'better', and to help others in worshipping Him 'better'. It can help in finding songs, or displaying them as a prompt. But sometimes we must put the computers, the songbooks, and even the guitars away. We must allow God to speak, especially since he may speak in "a gentle whisper" (1 Kings 19:12 (NIV Bible)). 

Anyway, thank you for bearing with me through that notice.

If you want to download PSALM, here it is: PSALM 3 (239kb). 

March 10, 2008

Final post of the day

Just as I have now finished tidying up my project files on my computer, here is one last piece of interest...

This is a quote from Dave Holden (leader of New Community Church, Sidcup (S.E. London) and involved in leading the newfrontiers 'stream' of churches) when he spoke in a seminar at a national newfrontiers leaders conference in Brighton last summer - you can download the entire seminar recording here (this seminar is called 'The Holy Spirit and your church: Part 2'). The whole talk is pretty long, this quote comes from about 25 minutes into it.

We need to teach people to expect to encounter God... You can have ten old ladies... in a tin hut, without the latest modern music, without any PA, who can't even see the words on the screen at the front; and if they are glorifying Jesus, and they are encountering God, then its a far more meaningful moment than some great big super-duper meeting where we've got all the technology and we're singing all the songs but actually were not encountering the living God. So all our hours given over to technology has a massive big question mark over it actually. Because I don't despise it, but I just dont think its as important as some people think it is... What's really important is these few people, whoever they may be, are genuinely encountering God.
...Some of us have got to make just basic decisions about what we think is important & what isnt... It is not about having the meeting run well... I want it done as best we can, but I do want to make this the priority of our hearts.

As this is from a context of training church leaders (although in the broadest sense), this demonstrates the fact that IT use in some churches has now reached a point where a refocus is needed back to the true priority of church: God. 

Some interesting resources that I had lying around

From the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (who by the way commissioned Schultze's book).
Technology in Worship contains quotes from church leaders about how they 'do' technology in worship and there is also links to a survey on visual media in Christian worship - here's a summary of the survey

Article "How to: Use technology to aid you as a worship leader", on pages 12-13 in inside worship magazine (2007 Vineyard Music USA). Gives some wise tips on using & integrating technology into worship. Mentions a guy called David Ruis, who leads worship using all kinds of weird & wonderful technologies - old and new. He was leading some sessions at a national Christian festival (soul survivor) that I went to last summer with some of the guys from the Warwick Christian Union. I have to admit that I actually found it very difficult to engage with his style of worship. It is a perfect example of where technology can alienate members of the congregation (however apparently open-minded or open to technology they may be), while others respond better to it. At the end of the day, worship is about engaging to honour God (eg. singing his praises, speaking biblical truths) and encountering God (developing in relationship with him, hearing his voice/guidance) and so much more. (This is my own pretty feeble definition) 

But before I go off on too much of a tangent, I shall stop here as this is a Computer Science degree project blog, not somewhere to discuss theology... as much as I might like it to be ;-) For more along those lines, pop over to one of my favourite websites, worship central... or even pop into your local church... you might be surprised!

Presentation resources

First, thanks to those who came to my project presentation.

Here you can find some resources that I used in the presentation - 

Presentation slides (pdf)

Diagrams handout

High-tech Worship?, Schultze on Amazon.co.uk

Beyond the OHP, Sheppard/Spring Harvest on Amazon.co.uk

Some of the questions asked during the presentation were about whether my PSALM program could be used during a service. I would like to stress here that although it could be, only the main screen is designed for this - so the editors + song recommender are intended for use in preparing for a service. They could be adapted for use though, but because usually the lead worshipper (person leading the band) has their hands full with an instrument, it would be difficult to use any program. In my 'further work' section of the presentation I didnt have time to talk about input methods. It would be great to use a system similar to worshipsession, which uses a foot pedal to control just two functions - for example, 'display next song' & 'display previous song'. 

The problem with using PSALM mid-service only shares the same inherent problems with songbooks though, in that fiddling around trying to find the next song to play can be frustrating. I believe that PSALM is at least as good, if not better than songbooks though in that searching is much quicker and the thematic search especially makes this job easier. 

As to the issue of depending on (any) computer programs to aid running a church service/worship 'set', it is important to see PSALM as a songbook replacement and not more than it actually is. Lead worshippers should not, and generally don't, rely on their songbooks to decide the order of service, so musn't then do it with PSALM either! (Which may explain why I haven't designed PSALM's song recommender to be easy to use mid-service). 

March 06, 2008

The end is nigh…

The presentation of my project is set for this coming Monday, and I am pleased to say that the final remaining increment of the PSALM program is complete! It won't be released online just yet (and probably not for another week or two) as this is the final week of term & very busy/important for me! 

If you would like to see the presentation, you are welcome (as long as there aren't too many people reading this!!). It will be in the Computer Science department, room CS1.05 at 9:40am on Monday 10th March. Steve Russ, my supervisor, will be chairing the presentation. 

The presentation will include a demonstration of PSALM, presenting (some of) the findings from my research into IT in the church, and conclusions/critial analysis. I haven't actually finished preparing it yet so this is just what I expect to do. There will be chance for questions to be asked, hopefully I can maybe even answer them too. I will post on this blog the slides from the presentation and maybe even some bits from the Q&As, again probably in a couple of weeks. 

Thank you for your interest in this project, maybe I shall see you very soon! 

February 28, 2008

Psalm 25

To celebrate the release (finally!) of PSALM 2.5, here is the start of Psalm 25 (from the New International Version of the Bible):

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

in you I trust, O my God.
   Do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one whose hope is in you
   will ever be put to shame,
   but they will be put to shame
   who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD,
   teach me your paths;

guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
   for they are from of old.

The whole poem can be found on BibleGateway.com.

Have fun playing with my PSALM 2.5 program - as always, please let me know if you find any problems or have any suggestions. Thank you!

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  • Congrats for ur final report,, I dinn have ne problem veiwing the report, its seems to be gud,, ..! … by Veda Informatics on this entry
  • By the way, if you have any problems with viewing the report, or in using PSALM, please still let me… by on this entry
  • It appears that when I tested PSALM, the computer that I tested it on already had the Bitstream Vera… by on this entry
  • Ah… thank you. The font hasn't been picked up. I'll have a look at what needs to be done. by on this entry
  • Chords aren't displayed in the right place for me. The spacing seems to drift slowly left, so that c… by Steve Rumsby on this entry

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