Communication and Communities of Faith
A family friend when asking me today what my sermon was for tomorrow, told me that she doesn't like the word sermon. "It seems so negative and moralistic" she said. I'd have to agree. Isn't that what "church" communication often is?: a one-way-street experience of lecturing, moral aggrandizing and emotional belittling. There has to be more? What I'm looking for is something that's vibrant, includes me in a conversation/dialog not just a speech intended for the dissimenation of religious information, and that involves me as a participant.
The New York Times ran an article today entitled "Our Father, Forgive Us That Tweet..." in which they raise a question traveling extensively across the blogosphere: is Twittering appropriate in religious services? What kind of communication is essential and which is not a propos for worship experiences? What constitutes an experience of community and what undoes it? I think it's what my friend is asking about in terms of what the word "sermon" re-presents.
I've Tweeted and Facebook-ed in worship and other community gatherings (not as a worship leader, but in the capacity of participant). For me personally, it has empowered a dynamic sense of communication, a sense of mutuality that doesn't seem to often occur in worship in which I'm a regular part. I found it dynamic, invigorating, stimulating on a multi-level way involving, inviting and enthusing me in worship and my experience of a community of faith. Yet others say it distracts, divides, and denies the depth and integral authenticity of face-to-face communication. I think worship is in large part about community, about sharing thoughts, discussing sacred texts, dialoging about the word given, received or experienced in a worship setting. Increasingly such new methods and means of communication | social networking are either transforming, revitalizing, or rivalizing our traditional ways of communicating across the board, why wouldn't that also apply to the ways in which we worship as community. Does it lead to the possiblity of gossip, of tweeting discussions that become divisive or anti-inclusionary? Yes. And yet can't other things such as coffee hour cliques, parking lot discussions, and sitting by the same person in the same pew every week? Maybe it's not any different in terms of the meaning of it all underneath, but merely a different means of communicating - one which transcends traditional control done in a hierarchical top-down way.
Other online articles/blogs on this include "Twittering in Church..." from Time Magazine and a good blog by Bruce Reyes-Chow [Thou Shalt Not Twitter During Church]. These experiences and the emerging discovery and discernment of what parameters should exist with Facebook and Twitter in Christian Worship point to the reality that my friend lifts up in naming the reality that the word "sermon" tends to have a negative connotation. There has to be a better way of communicating, not necessarily in terms of efficacy - for that's surely not what worship is about - but rather in terms of participation, inclusion, empowerment and and experience. Maybe Twittering in church is the way forward? Maybe it isn't? I doubt that it's an either/or answer we'll articulate as it emerges from our practice, failures and successes - rather it'll be some sort of dialectical both/and response.