Monday, November 09, 2009

Can Virtual Church Be Literally Fulfilling?

CNN recently posted a breaking news video entitled "Is virtual worship fulfilling?" [LINK to the video report]. [LINK to]  Interesting video that asks a question that's been being discussed for several years in certain corners and sub-populations of the church community.

I found striking the commentators remarks towards the beginning.  It's high ceilings, windows and everyone together - those are the things that remind her of church.  In an age of transformation and redefinition of most of our experiences in daily life because of technological advancement, our approach to pluralism and cultural diversity and the global market-place, church - religious community and experience - also needs to be redefined, or does it?

In my own experience as pastor, having served churches in California and currently in France I find that people are looking for fulfillment.

1.  They want connection, relationship, to be touched in a world in which we usually avoid each other, have few real interactions and live anonymously in massive urban centers.

2.  They want meaning for what they do: work, rest, relationships, commitments.  Not just to talk about it.  They want to articulate a meaning for their actions, and find that their actions make meaning in the world.

3.  They hunger for a faith and faith-community is pertinent and incarnate in the world in which we live, not just one that criticizes and avoids the one in which we are.

Can you do that on a computer screen?  I don't think so.  Yet it's also important.  Is virtual worship fulfilling?  Yes I think so.  Yet the virtual part can't replace what can only be experienced "literally" in person, in a real community context.

I've found that individuals are hungry for change, yet the larger system of the church is reluctant, historically much more focused on maintenance of historical traditions and past glories than upon reinterpreting tradition in view of becoming pertinent.  It makes me think of this funny video that a cousin recently showed me.  If the church takes too long, we just might become like this help desk.

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