Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Warts and all. . .

Some have been saying that if you are doing live streaming or video during the pandemic, you better not stop.  Some have been bragging that their attendance online is greater than their attendance in person.  Some have even wondered aloud if it is worth it to go back to in person services.  There is a little truth in everything but not much in these statements.

Live streaming and video was never to be a substitute for in person worship.  In emergency times you use emergency means and the rush for pastors to be social media personalities and for worship you can tune into (as well as tune out of) was in response to lock downs and orders that prevented the Church from assembling together.  I am not at all sure that continuing what was done in an emergency is either wise or prudent.  But I am mostly a Luddite (hence the blog) and so what do I know?

Online attendance numbers are grand.  Until you look below the surface, anyway.  For all the high fives and thumbs up, dig underneath and you find the technology has warts.  Few folks watch the whole video.  Few watch it without fast forwarding to the good parts.  In the end, you may celebrate high numbers of people who watch a few minutes but if you think that these people are with you to the benediction, wake up and smell the roses.  Social media may be good for a few things but these things must be accepted warts and all.

Worship is something that cannot be done online.  There is no such things as virtual communion, virtual prayer, or virtual singing.  I am not even sure that listening online can be counted on except for virtual communication and we know how effective that can be.  To presume that people will continue to retain loyalty to and support a congregation whose door they do not darken is risky business.  To presume that people who watch are really being reached, catechized, or nurtured to maturity of faith and life in Christ requires you to swallow hard.

So I have presumed nothing about the video we have posted except that people know we are still here.  I am thankful that 36% watch to the end and that hundreds and hundreds tune in for a minute or two or three.  But I am not ready to say this is a great thing.  A tool, perhaps.  An effective tool?  Still to be determined.  But a substitute for meeting together (even with some physical distance!), never.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

It’s bad when you watch the big box pastors telling their online audience to, “everybody say, ‘great’” and seeing how empty it sounds (of course, it’s a well-known manipulation technique, too). One wonders if there are really people listening online speaking words aloud after their mega church guru. What’s missing in a liturgical service online is the flock of bleating sheep, singing their parts of the Liturgy!

Watching online liturgies, even if you are singing when you’re supposed to, saying the Our Father, and merely watching while the elements are consecrated (which hopefully the pastor is not doing online, anyway!), something is missing. There is so much more to the Liturgy. Our responses are Scripture, or Scripture-based, but when there is not a full flock of voices, something is definitely missing.

Church is an assembly, a gathering, a meeting of Christ’s flock. If you are seated at your kitchen table or on your couch with your family or without, you are a single member of the Body of Christ. Christ is the Head, and you are, say, an eye. As St. Paul says, if everyone were an eye, where would be the hearing? If Christ were ONLY an eye (whether one, or many), the Body could not function properly.

We HAVE to meet together IN PERSON.