Word is my church is beginning to explore the possibility of reinventing itself as a Virtual Church. Frankly, this is an idea which puts the fear of God in me (to coin a phrase).
It seems a colossal miscalculation - especially if the goal is to reverse the decades-old drift away from organized religion in the U.S. and Europe. Since few of us over 50 even know what a pinboard is (we’re still claiming bragging rights for Skyping with far-flung kids and grandchildren), it’s clear my demographic isn’t the target of the new technology under consideration; it’s the young people they’re after. Fair enough: If the young people don’t start joining churches, churches probably won’t survive. But it’s not the young people who have brought churches to their knees; according to [Diana Butler Bass] in [*Christianity After Religion*], it’s Boomers -- and definitely not because of any perceived or virtual deficit in technology.
Really -- what difference does anyone think a Tweet from the Rector will make if he/she doesn’t know our name, much less know us? Do the powers that be truly think we’ll sign up electronically for pastoral care? Without a personal relationship? Should we be posting miscarriages, divorces, deadly diagnoses, lost jobs, failed relationships, concerns about our children, or end-of-life decisions on the church’s Facebook page? They can’t be serious. And yet they seem to be. This is one giant dis-connect. I can only hope and pray that because of falling pledges and the continuing economic crisis there isn’t enough money in the coffers to get us wired.
I’m not a Luddite. It’s just that Cyber-connectivity seems unlikely to bring us back into the fold when it’s the human, spiritual connection we’re seeking. There is an abyss-like breach between the institutional church and the lives of the people it purports to serve, a disconcerting gap between what the church says and does and who we are and how we live. According to our Scriptures after all, it’s not, I want to remind our techno-clergy, that God texted earth to inform our lives; he sent a real human being to teach us how to be in relationship, how to love. Invite us to live in that community again, dear church, join us in meaningful human relationship, teach us to love one another more than our smart phones and ipads, and the exiled among us will, I believe, come back.
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