Technology and Community
One day, when our son was a Junior or Senior in high school, I decided on the spur of the moment to pick him up after school and drive to Atlanta for a Braves game. They were facing the Houston Astros in the deciding game of the National League Division Series (back when the Astros were in the National League). The only tickets available were ‘Standing Room Only” but I bought some on-line and off we went. Spoiler alert: the Braves lost but that’s not why I’m writing this.
Most everyone by then had a cell phone, if not an iPhone which had just come out. Rob and I gathered up on the terrace level, along with a few hundred other folks who similarly had last minute ideas, most of whom were in their early 20s, all of us standing very close to each other for the entire game. Most everyone was talking on their cell phones off and on. At first I had judgmental thoughts about how the younger generation was more interested in their phones than they were the baseball game. But then I noticed a trend in what I was overhearing from their phone conversations. At least a dozen times I heard someone say, into their telephones, “I love you.” Not only was the younger generation more tied to their telephones, but they were also much more affectionate than my generation, and extremely well connected to each other.
This past Sunday, I had the strange experience of leading a worship service without a single person sitting in the pews of St. John’s. There were a few people up in the loft helping with the cameras and the audio but no one was sitting in the pews. We used the service of Morning Prayer and I delivered a sermon. Occasionally, over the years, I’ve gone into the empty church and practiced a sermon but I’ve never actually delivered a sermon to an empty church. Instead of looking at people, I focused on a tiny little camera way up in the loft. That was the congregation for me.
I imagined that the experience would feel cold and lonely and sad. Instead, much to my surprise, I felt warmly connected to people I knew who would be watching and even touched by the knowledge that some perfect strangers would be tuning in. As I finished the sermon I got a little chill up my spine thinking about how important St. John’s is to people and how much worship means to all of us. Right after the service, I started getting text messages and emails from folks who had watched. Several of them commented that they had been moved to tears. “Me too”, I thought! How very strange.
My father was a technology guy. He gave me my first computer in 1983, even while I insisted that my Smith-Corona typewriter was just fine with me. A few years ago, when our daughter sent us a photograph of an ultrasound of her first child in utero, my father looked at that with great interest. After a few minutes, he said, “You know the technology that makes this ultrasound possible is really remarkable!” I teased, “Not to mention the baby growing inside your granddaughter!”
Technology really is amazing. And it seems we will be relying on it for a great deal more than we usually do for a while. Most all of our contact for now with each other as members of St. John’s will be by way of electronic communication. Thankfully we have the latest gadgets and equipment to be able to do that. These phones and computers that we sometimes curse for all the communications they deliver will now be our primary tie with each other.
But, of course, the technology is simply conveying the connection and affection that we already share. As I got a chill up my spine Sunday, it wasn’t due to technology; it was due to the great love we share for each other, for our church, and for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are forced for a period of time to be separate from one another. But we are one in so many ways.
For those who are not computer users, we will resort to older forms of technology. We will make phone calls and write letters. We will visit individuals when possible and with extra-caution. We will stay in touch with each other and celebrate the community we form together even when we are not physically together.
We are connected in so many ways, in our love for each other and in our love of the Lord. As we avoid crowds, are homebound, or even quarantined, we are one. That’s not because of technology but because of the love which God has woven into the fabric of creation.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Keeping Pledges Current
During the time in which St. John’s is closed to group gatherings and public worship, our expenses continue. You can mail your offerings in using your pledge envelopes and adding a stamp. You also can use Bill Pay through your bank or instruct your bank to do an automatic draft. Thank you for your continued faithfulness in your stewardship.