Getting #Married

January 7, 2012
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I was out of town for Meredith Gould and Dan Webster's wedding, but I felt like I was a part of it. Why? Because Meredith and Dan made sure that social media was central to the worship service, so I was able to participate with that cloud of witnesses through glancing through tweets, reading blogposts, and checking out Facebook.

Meredith wrote a how-to book on the experience, and Getting #Married has just been released. So I invited Meredith to the blog for some conversation. 

CHM: I love social media. I think it’s a valuable tool for creating
spiritual community. Yet, I know how much resistance I get when I talk about
how churches need to set up a Facebook site. As I read Getting #Married, I wondered if
you got the same resistance.

These questions kept popping up in my mind, “What did people
think about that?” “What did her husband think?” “What about all of those
Episcopalians?” It felt almost scandalous that two esteemed religious people,
who care deeply about sacred space, could be engaging in social media during
their wedding. So, I have to ask, what did people think? Did anyone question
your use of social media?

MG: Hold
on, I’m leaping to the meta-level! This question, usually the first one I’m
asked, always stuns me into realizing how much I work, play, and pray in a
world that’s not generally shared. Not yet, anyway. 

I’ve
been involved with online communities since 1996 and social media since 2008.
For me, using online technology to create and build community is what we
sociologists call a “world taken for granted.” As result, I tend to experience momentary
disconnect whenever this question comes at me and exasperation when encountering
vehement resistance to social media. Note to self: stop being so surprised. Back to your original question.

First
and foremost, The Rev. Canon Dan Webster (aka, my husband) and I were in total
alignment. Doesn’t everyone discuss social
media, public versus private presence, and sustaining the sacred during their
betrothal? We discussed all this and
more!

Our
training and experience as communications professionals – Dan was a news
producer before becoming an Episcopal priest – helped us be sensitive to and
then create ways to address possible concerns. As it turned out, we didn’t experience any resistance.  

Guests
already well-versed in social media and liturgy were delighted by how we used
social media to expand our wedding celebration beyond church-the-building.
Those who weren’t, took it well in stride. I trusted that our social media savvy guests would model using social
media with care and propriety. This is exactly what happened, so within days of
our wedding I started writing Getting
#Married
to explain the why as
well as the how of using social media
to celebrate the sacred. Am I a fun
newlywed or what?

CHM: Once, during seminary, I was with friends who were invited to a
wedding. I noticed how they looked for the watermark on the invitation. In that
moment I realized how those tangible things are there to prove how grand and
classy we are.

You skipped a lot of those things (like the paper invitations
and the formal photographs). Did you find that not focusing on some of the
material aspects allowed you to focus more on the service as worship? What sort
of impact did it have on your experience as a bride?

MG: True
confession: not the first wedding for either Dan or me. But even if it had
been, I’d love to think we would’ve ditched conspicuous consumption
rituals. All that froufrou is completely
out of whack with our commitment to Gospel values. Spend money on printed invitations, wedding
photography and a big honking wedding cake? Obscene. Grievous.

As
a practical matter, doing everything online was so much easier. You’ve zoomed
in on the core issue: reclaiming time to focus on the worship service. 

Having
been previously married, I treated our engagement as a time of prayerful
discernment. This would be my first, only and last marriage as a Christian. I
was keenly aware of it being a sacrament. I’m also committed to liturgy being an experience of shared reverence
and joy for everyone involved. 

I
actively and openly discussed these issues on Twitter for many months before
our wedding. Support came in the form of
conversations about readings and music, as well as people sharing stories about
making their own weddings sacred. These
conversations helped me stay focused on the process of getting married rather than planning
a wedding
.  

But
keep in mind that in addition to using Twitter as a news feed, I purposefully
follow extraordinary people always willing, ready, and able to discuss
challenges of celebrating the sacred in our vehemently secular world. I want to underscore this point for people
who think Twitter is trivial and inane. This misperception is, in fact, one
reason I started the weekly church social media (#chsocm) chat on Twitter. Since July, this ecumenical group of
participants discusses how to champion social media as a way to preach the
Gospel and re-configure what it means to be church.

CHM: Sometimes I worry about the permanence of our art and historical
documents now that so many things are digital. When I buy an e-book today, it’s
quick and easy. But will my daughter be able to read it twenty years from now?
When I take a picture on my phone, I can share it with friends on Facebook and
Twitter. But will those photos be lost to my descendants?

Did you do anything to preserve some of the memories? Did you
make sure biographers who write about Meredith Gould in fifty years have some
good material?

MG: Relative
to preserving art and historical documents, I think we’re seeing how
“digitizing” these materials and making them accessible online are in fact
preserving them, albeit not in a traditional way. Truly, Carol, I hope your daughter will
always be able to turn pages in a book and gaze at art close enough to touch –
and then be touched by it. But you’re
asking me about archiving personal memories. I’m noticing how I care less about
doing that with every passing year.

I
simply trust that I’ll remember what I remember, whenever and however I’m moved
to remember. I’ve never been keen on having lots of family photographs around
and am forever tossing things out. This, by the way, has come as a shock to my
packrat, highly sentimental husband. 

Two
years ago, I tweeted about maybe dumping decades of personal journals. I was promptly barraged with tweets telling me
not to, including one from someone I’ve never met IRL (in real life) offering
to store them for me! I didn’t throw out
the journals then, but just might during my next cleaning fit. Can’t imagine biographers chronicling the
sturm und drang of my Earth Duty stint.  

As
for wedding memories, would it be too trite to say they’re alive and well in my
heart? And it’s a good thing because the
Cathedral lighting was so horrid that no one was able to get any good pictures
of us exchanging vows.  

CHM: What would be your biggest piece of advice for people who are
thinking about using social media in their weddings? 

MG: So
this where I say, “Buy my book,” right? Please buy my book if you’re thinking
about using social media for your wedding. Getting
#Married
describes the benefits of using social media in general and then
explains how and when to deploy well-known tools and introduces some that might
be new to readers. 

All not kidding aside, I think it’s
important to know why you want to use
social media to help celebrate a wedding or any other sacrament. Enter into a discernment process. 
In the second chapter of Getting #Married I provide questions to
help couples think this through.

Relative to sacred and secular matters alike,
my discernment process always involves asking, “Will this enhance my
relationship with God or will this distract me from my relationship with
God?”  My decision making improved
exponentially after this inquiry became standard operating procedure. Thanks be to God!

Meredith Gould, Ph.D.  (@meredithgould), sociologist
and author of eight books including
The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and
Faith Today
(Morehouse) and Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots
of Christian Worship
(Seabury), is also the founder of the weekly
church social media chat (#chsocm) on Twitter. 
More about her
here.  Dr. Gould’s new book, Getting #Married: Using Social Media to Celebrate the Sacred is
available from
CreateSpace and also on
Kindle from
Amazon.

Comments

Thank you!

Grateful author, here. This book project was a labor of love and my hope is that reading it calms the fears of those who worry that social media will detract from celebrating the sacred.

different types of memories

I have a real hard time when Christians say "oh this is wasteful" about something that has deep meaning to someone else. I respect that Meredith's wedding was her wedding, her way. And that is really great, that traditions can stretch and brides can eschew the traditions they want and embrace the ones they want. But not everyone wants the same thing. One size does not fit all. I prefer: "This is one way to do a wedding." (And, for what it's worth, it sounds like a beautiful way to do a wedding.) However, photographs, memorabilia, they have deep meaning to me. I don't mind that they do not have deep meaning for Meredith, but I mind that she thinks I'm wasteful if I choose to spend my money in those ways.

Blessings, Meredith, on your marriage, and thank you Carol, for highlighting such an important book.

xo, SL

Oh my...

So very sorry that you thought I was accusing you or anyone else of being wasteful. Not my intention. As you point out, one size does not fit all and I understand the desire to have and hold memorabilia. May they always be a source of comfort and joy for you and your heirs!