Friday, 24 June 2011

Directions in a digital age

I took the dog for a walk this morning as we continued our attempt to map out the local area. I can assure my parishioners that I don't 'map' the land in the same way that Bramble does. As usual we got lost. Just an innocent left turn up an innocuous looking path and a few strides later we found ourselves disorientated. I have no sense of direction and the dog simply follows his nose, usually to the nearest message from a fellow canine.

Eventually we came to a clearing and two landmarks were visible above the trees, a church spire and a communications mast. Living in the birth place of radio there are plenty of masts around including one huge redundant construction visible from our bedroom which has a preservation order on it. The church spire is that of St. Mary's where I am Rector and the mast is in a field on the edge of the parish. So we headed for the spire and soon arrived home.

As I used the spire for our direction home I remembered that I had my mobile phone with me and I could easily have conjured up a map which would have displayed my current position and given me directions home. It got me thinking about the changes and challenges facing the church in the digital age.

For generations the church spire has been the most visible landmark in the area, a symbol of permanence and continuity in a rapidly changing world. Now the communications mast rivals it as a marker on the landscape. In some places churches have allowed a mobile phone mast to be sited on the spire or tower, usually for financial reasons, while others have steadfastly refused to succumb to the inducements of the communications companies. I'm not sure what I think about this, though I understand the financial pressures facing some congregations that have influenced their decision.

However, I am convinced of one thing; the church cannot afford to leave the digital world outside the Christian community. It is essential for the church's mission and ministry that we embrace the digital world of communications and social media if we are to engage with the realities of our age.

I'm writing this blog from my iPad, a wonderful gift from my friends and colleagues in the diocese when I left my lay education and training role a couple of months ago. This little marvel has 3G and wifi, applications for just about everything I need in terms of running my office and a plethora of tools and resources including the Bible and various liturgies. It doesn't replace key aspects of my role like listening, praying and speaking with people face to face but it does enhance a lot of what I do.

So my question is this: Are we going to keep the digital world at arms length, on the margins of our life and witness, like the mast on the edge of the parish? Or are we going to embrace the digital realities of the world we live in both offline and online; placing the church and the Gospel we proclaim at it's centre, not uncritically but with Spirit led discernment and wisdom?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


UKViewer said...

Just wondering. Will the Ipad replace the Presidents Edition of Common Worship on the Altar when you lead the service?

I know it has already been done, just wondered if it was a viable option in the real world?

useful in parts said...

embrace i hope as a gift but being wary of it's terrible temptation to our egos - see

explain simply so others can see why its a must - see and

all whilst being aware of its blind spots - see

Philip Ritchie said...

UkViewer, the iPad may well replace the PE of CW as it's a lot easier to find one's way around. I don't see a problem with this provided it doesn't inhibit the celebrant or distract the congregation.