Systematic Theology, the recent past and the next few years
Book Review: Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating by Norman Wirzba

Once More Twitter and Worship

Peter posted a helpful series of comments in response to original post to which I want to try and respond.

1. Avoid the sacred:secular divide which has developed between services and life where people are encouraged to leave their 'lives' and 'troubles' at the door for a spiritual experience apart from their context.

Worship should definitely avoid the extreme of this - we should bring our wholeselves and leave nothing at the door. Although I think there is something 'sacred' about gathering intentionally around Word and sacrament, which is different from other things we might do in life. I'm not sure this is an argument for tweeting though.

2. Help a duplex relationship between the service and the rest of reality. (duplex communication / relationship flows in both directions and are dialogical)

The concern here is to avoid one-way conversation, where one leads, speaks, prays and the rest of the congregation are passive - a more two-way conversation. Many church traditions would understand worship as a two-way conversation between God and his people ... God gathers, welcomes, addressses us through scripture, sends and we respond in praise, confession, petition and intercession. Does twitter generate a truly two-way conversation (especially when limited to 140 characters)?

3. Avoid churchs' over-emphasis on asynchronous broadcast techniques (static church websites, mp3's of sermons, video broadcast of services, sermon notes in the notice sheet, home group resources, letter from the pastors desk, etc). To do this by providing a complimentary synchronous engagement between people so allowing live-time conversation.(The notion of synchronous communication develops the previous point about duplex)

Is the first point that the church needs to be more culturally relevant (hipster christianity) - why has relevance become the highest good, trumping all others? With regard to the second point, why does there have to be live-conversation - cannot the conversation follow having listened and actually does it not exclude those who are preaching, praying, presiding from any conversation?

4. Makes our meetings more 'in the public square' and hosted by culture (as in hosted by twitter platform) and so we are hosted by culture (incarnational) and Christ can then be mediated through culture to convert his church to him.

I'm struggling to entirely understand this point. 

5. Twitter provides an enduring trail and continuity of conversation beyond the time of the sevice

Why can't this happen afterwards? 

6. Allows those beyond the service to participate

So saying 'no need to be present, you can be part of the service and still lie in bed ...'?

7. Helps kinaesthetic learners, who often struggle with church services, engage with and process a mainly auditory experience which is often more monologue.

Ok possibly, but we can do this without twitter. This seems to me to be more a point about the content of worship, with which I have some sympathy.

8. Enculturates the Gospel - twitter is particularly relevant to certain demographics and so it gets the church out of a sometimes odd sub-culture rather than a contextualised and also counter-cultural stance

In my opinion the church should be in an counter-culture stance. Accomodation to culture here - allowing ourselves never to be separated from our phone - is to encourage an unhealthy attachment to technology. In my view the virtues of patience, self-control and paying attention are more important to learn by asking people to leave their phones switched off and saying they will not be needed to participate. Accomodation provides no place for being critical over the use of technology - it becomes an idol.

9. as our mouth and ears are part of our physical body so our phone and tweeting (listening/speaking) are an extension and expression of being human

Really? Is this suggesting I am less human if I fail to use my phone and tweet?

10. provides a tool to facilitate multi-voiced worship in larger (20+?) gatherings where it cannot easily be achieved through conversation alone. Be that person to person or/and a way for the main service leader (if there is one) to be asked questions, challenged and corrected.

While the Mennonite practice of discernment following the sermon is to be encouraged - 'The last word belongs to the congregation not to the preacher. We deliberately divest the preacher of control over the gospel' (Presence: Giving and Receving God, p.viii) ... not sure if this requires a phone and tweeting. Possibly.

11. distributes power and discernment of truth amongst a wider group than the one(s) with the microphone - though this then has the knock on of a newly disempowered group of those without smart phone which needs addressing.

Does it give 'discernment of truth'? and I think your point about a newly disempowered group is a strong one against using twitter in worship.

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Nothing here has convinced me that twitter is a positive contribution to worship and I believe there are still strong arguments of making space here, and in other points of our lives, to disconnect us from the networked world, that we might live apart from technology. In Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman writes (in 1992!) argues that technopology consists in the deficiation of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds it satisfaction in technology, and takes its orders from technology' (quoted in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down by Marva Dawn, Eerdmans, 1995, pp.28-29).

Comments

Ashley

Thanks Andy and Peter for starting an interesting conversation. I have some sympathy with the argument that Peter makes - there is a danger that we will reject new technology simply because it is new and we are yet to see how it might contribute to our encounters with God and one another in the context of the church gathered. Saying that I am concerned about the degree to which people are distracted from face to face relationshios by their virtual alternatives. Our attentiveness to others is lessened when we keep looking back to the device in our hand. Got me thinking now...

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