Virtually tangible?

In the tireless (and sometimes tiresome) debates over social media, I come down pretty firmly on the “pro” side. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m enthusiastic about every use of these media, any more than newspaper diehards necessarily find, say, Page Three to be a worthy end for newsstand dollars and dead trees.

For instance, this seems like an especially poor use of Twitter. Twitter can be useful to churches in countless ways not immediately related to worship life, and even a silly liturgical innovation like a tweeted Stations of the Cross seems pretty benign to me. But communion via Twitter? I’m not one to go all book-of-order-thumper every time someone gets a bit loosey-goosey around the altar, but this is seriously stretching the definition of “altar” and, especially, “around.”

Whatever your sacramental theology, it doesn’t seem like there’s much left without physical elements and physically gathered people (i.e., two or more—yes, I’m in favor of bringing the elements to the sick and homebound). I like Dave Allen’s comments, especially this:

"[Twitter is] a community that's as real and tangible as any local neighbourhood and we should be looking to minister to it,” [said pastor Tim Ross].

[Dave]: No, you are confusing 'tangible' with 'popular'.

Exactly right. I’m not sure how I’d go about making the case for a Twitcharist, but I might start by not referring to a virtual community as “tangible.”

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Comments

Molly said... I really

Molly said...

I really like the word "Twitcharist".

I think that some actions of the Body of Christ must be done in person. Twitter and other social networking sites are good for updates and long distance commiseration, but nothing can beat the personal touch or the warmth of being in one another's presence.

pastormack said...

pastormack said...

Stories like this make me loathe being a protestant...and in this case, a Methodist too.

Yet another example of how the attempt to be "relevant" offends every sense of the dignity, form, and function of Christ's Church.

Megan said... @ Brian:

Megan said...

@ Brian: The elements have to have been consecrated. Unless the Twitter communicants have consecreted bread and wine present, then it's a meal of some type, but it's not the Eucharist. At least for this Episcopalian

Doug Sloan said...

Doug Sloan said...

“Doing” has to be the new definition of faith. A “new definition” will not be statements of purpose/mission/vision or political participation or public stances on issues or styles of worship. It will be specific activities; specific ways of living that are the new definition. Participating in CODA or LifeLine or Habitat for Humanity will not be an outreach activity; it will be what we do and definitive of who we are. Supporting a free clinic or a food pantry or a shelter for the homeless will not be the focus of an annual fund-raising event; it will be part of our continuously active and visible theological and spiritual DNA. Worship will not be every Sunday morning – it will be whenever and wherever 2 or 3 (not 200 or 300, not 2,000 or 3,000, not 20,000 or 30,000) are gathered to live, study, and contemplate the Good News. Indeed, “doing” will be about living and being the Good News, not scheduling it as a repetitive activity on our digital calendar on the same day at the same time that always occurs at the same location and always follows the same sequence. “Doing” our faith does not require capital campaigns; local, regional, or national governing boards; seminaries; or licensing/ordination policies.

“Doing” our faith has to be seen as a radical, counter-cultural, defiant way of living. By its very nature, our faith is not supposed to be institutionalized and not measured by largeness, cultural pervasiveness, or authoritarianism. Our faith is supposed to be personal and divinely humane. Our faithful doing is to be delivered person-to-person, face-to-face, one-to-one – not by an invisible faceless remote committee or collective or on-line flash mob. “Doing” our faith can be accomplished only with more personal involvement and not with more technology that is better, more pervasive, more invasive, and increasingly remote and detached.

(excerpt from RECLAIMING CHURCH)
http://dmergent.org/2010/06/03/reclaiming-church/

Brian said... I disagree

Brian said...

I disagree and agree. Twitter (social media) community *is* (or at least can be) tangible. It is a real community where real relationships form and continue, real prayers are prayed, real life is shared. Two thoughts: "communion" involves physical elements which must be given in person and cannot be shared over the phone or the internet. *However* I think it could be plausible for people to take communion (physically where they are) and at the same time be connected via social media. Perhaps not "ideal," but nevertheless "tangible" and the Spirit knows no boundaries. I think the Church must be willing to think outside the box on this one. Social media, Skype, and Video phones have changed the game.

Andy said... This reminds

Andy said...

This reminds me of Tom Long's book about funerals, which I reading now. He argues against having "funerals" or memorial services where the body of the dead is not present.

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