Not just “Virtual” Community

My mom had surgery this past Monday.  It’s at least a 4 week recovery so we appreciate the prayers!  I talked to her Monday afternoon when she got out of surgery on the phone and one of the first things she said – “Prayer request” and she asked that we would pray for her recovery, doctors, etc. but mostly that people would be able to hear her with her hoarse voice after the breathing tube during surgery.

What is the fastest way to send out a prayer request?  Pray of course -duh.  But a great way to get a lot of people praying – facebook.  Suddenly there were clergy people, friends, church members from all sorts of previous churches, family – all praying with a sentence typed into a status. 

I’ve been to the church conferences and I’ve read the articles about “appropriate” technology and the ones asking if this virtual community is really killing our real life community, etc.  I get that.  I understand that people need to go outside and build relationships and engage in hands on experience, dialogue, etc.  But, I also think that social media offers a great chance for building community with people you may have lost touch with, people who you may not have ever met but you share communities in common, or people that maybe are just acquaintances but that you care for, support, and pray for.

A colleague of mine said that if he has a bunch of mutual friends with someone on facebook he’ll go ahead and friend them and will explain to them – if we have this many people in common and paths that have crossed, inevitably we will be friends.  Something to think about.  And then there’s the thing going around facebook now saying that we can’t possibly know everyone we’re “friends” with and asking these same friends to post how we’ve met.

I know that some of these are generational, societal, even security questions about what information is shared and how comfortable we are about sharing openly and honestly on the internet where as the lovely Social Network says – things are written in ink not in pencil.  But I hope that we are able to support each other whether near or far, whether close friend or acquaintance, whether we talk every day or it’s just a Christmas card or we had some powerful shared experience long ago.

I truly believe that this community is not just a virtual community, but that it’s real and alive.  I don’t think it always is and I know there’s exceptions to everything but I know that I can personally say that I’ve been moved by people’s support not just in cards or letters but in emails and comments and any other electronic communication.  That is just as meaningful to me as anything else.

Maybe everyone doesn’t feel that way?  How does the different form of community affect our love and support each other?  our pastoral care? 

Listening to a sermon online?  Watching a worship service from a podcast?  Having a small group discussion on skype?  What do these mediums to do the essence of our faith?  I certainly don’t have all the answers and I definitely don’t have the inside track to all of these different technologies but I do think that wiping them away as things that don’t build “real” community is a disservice and a shame when they can be a powerful resource for hope, healing, comfort and love.

What have your experiences been with virtual community?  Yay or nay?

One thought on “Not just “Virtual” Community

  1. I hope your mom gets to feeling better soon!

    I have a “friend” on FB that I’ve never met. At night, on FB he asks if there are any prayer requests he can lift up while walking the dog. So many people make comments asking for prayer.

    I continued to see his posts and one day when I really needed a prayer I sent him a message. We had a conversation. How awesome is that!

    I feel like Twitter is a community. I’ve had conversations through Twitter that are surprising when you actually think you’ve never met the person. But, that’s how you get to know people. Granted, most of the people have the UMC in common so maybe that makes someone feel more comfortable about talking. But still. I’ve not met you, but you’ve been really helpful with something I’m working on and as I continue to read your blog and tweets I get to know you a little bit better. Social media has been a wonderful tool for me.

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