Last night we tried something new with our confirmation class: emoji theology.
It was inspired by the brilliant Twitter account @emojitheology, which communicates Bible stories and religious ideas through emoji—those little pictures we include in text messages. Here are some examples of those awesome tweets:
This fall I was invited to speak as part of a series called "Conversations that Matter" for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. I gave the talk live at the first conversation in Nazareth, PA and then we recorded it for subsequent gatherings. The invitation was to speak about the future direction of the church in a way that provoked conversation and reflection.
This 22-minute video called "Make Your Neighborhood Your Cathedral" explores something I am deeply passionate about and I think is vital to the future of the Church—getting outside our church buildings and being present in public local and digital gathering spaces, whether it is the local cafe or pub, Facebook or Twitter. (Email readers will need to click here to view the video.)
“And the word became flesh and lived among us....” (John 1:14)
Last summer, one of my Facebook friends I’ve never met, Tracy Pasche-Johannes, a fellow Lutheran pastor from Muncie, Indiana, and her husband, Jeff, were in my hometown of Boston on vacation. “We’re in Boston! Would you like to meet in person?” they asked in a Facebook message.
We had never met before and we had a pretty thin connection to start with: we shared one common friend, who, at one point thought it would be a good idea for us to know each other and introduced us on Facebook. We had observed one another’s status updates, messaged back and forth a few times, but that was pretty much it.
We agreed to meet up for an Italian dinner in Boston’s North End. Over pasta and Chianti, canolli and cappuccino, we fleshed out one another’s status updates and blog posts, putting a voice with our writing, describing our families, locating one another within our ministry and community contexts.
Over the course of the meal, all the words, links, and video we had shared back and forth on Facebook became embodied and enfleshed, and our digital connection grew into a deeper personal relationship. Our dinner was, in the Johannine spirit of “the Word made flesh,” a feast of the incarnation.
I've always been a big fan of praying for people on Facebook and I have done a lot of it, but it wasn't until my son broke his leg and needed surgery that I really felt the power of digital prayer for myself.
I've prayed many times for others Facebook as a care giver, but to receive prayers as the parent of a sick child was a different and powerful experience, one which I will try to capture in this post.
In short, it was like this: all those comments, likes, direct messages, as well as email and texts - they were each like a votive prayer candle that was lit for my son, and, though we are separated by time and miles, it was like all those candles were all lit in one place. My Facebook newsfeed resembled the rows of prayer candles you often find in Catholic churches and monasteries - visible symbols of the thoughts and prayers of many, bringing us warmth, comfort, and light - lifting my son and family up to God.
Thanks so much for your love, support, and prayers. It means more than we can say.
Here are a few other things I noticed through this experience of digital prayer:
One of the most common questions about social media in ministry — “How much time do you spend on Facebook?” — is quickly becoming an irrelevant one.
Today 46 percent of American adults own smart phones and nearly 20 percent of Americans use a tablet or e-reader. They manage multiple social networking profiles, spending upwards of 15 minutes a day on Facebook alone, and carry out many everyday tasks like shopping and banking online.
As the Internet goes mobile and we spend more time there, the line between our digital and face-to-face lives is rapidly blurring.
This integration of our digital and analog lives, whether we choose to embrace or resist it, is changing our lives and, therefore, the practice of ministry, in profound ways.
Today’s ministry leaders are called to be present and minister not only in person, by phone, snail mail and email, but also via text message and social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
I experienced this myself recently when one of my parishioners — I’ll call her Sally — had surgery to remove a tumor from the right side of her brain.
Member participation is absolutely crucial for effective digital ministry, and yet there is very little guidance out there for people in our congregations. Most of the advice focuses on the role of professional ministry leaders.
Member engagement helps puts the "social" in social media by extending the community, amplifying the Gospel message, and helping move away from a one-person one-message model of broadcast media.
Here are five ways members can participate in and extend the digital ministry of their congregations: