20 October 2008

Tim's Blog: "Better than Church?"

Tim Norwood (a Church of England vicar) asks if blogging is better than church.

Tim's Blog: "Better than Church?":
A friend of mine (who is probably reading this) also commented that reading the blog was 'better than going to church' - which I do take as a compliment, but it does raise some interesting questions. To what extent can the blogsphere provide opportunities to 'be' church?

A few years ago, I was quite interested in the idea of on-line church and a few of us began to think about how to do it. We started with cell church methodology and looked at ways to do this. I even bought the 'cybercell' url (and still own it). When the diocese put money into cutting edge ministries and launched iChurch I was seriously tempted to apply for the job (which unfortunatley was part-time). It's been interesting to watch iChurch develop in similar directions to CyberCell - which never got off the ground because I didn't have enough time to invest in it...

And he has some quite interesting thoughts on the topic.

Some of his comments made sense to me. Among other things he said that reading his bishop's blog made him feel closer to his bishop. And yes, blogging is a way of sharing thoughts with people one doesn't see every day, and allows one to communicate with people who are geographically out of reach.

But there are also limitations in blogging. Comments allow some interaction, but it is not inherently an interactive medium. It is basically a one to many medium. Some have tried to overcome the limitations by having synchroblogs -- many people blogging on the same topic at the same time, but it is still a collection of individual viewpoints. Blogging remains communication without community, and therefore cannot be regarded as a form of church, or "fresh expressions" of church, much less a substitute for church. Though I suppose a lot depends on what you regard as church. If your model of church is the Protestant "preacher-congregation" one, then yes, blogging can be much the same thing. If you go to church primarily to hear sermons, then yes, you can just as easily read them on blogs -- but is that all that church is about?

Online worship and prayer, however, seem to me to be an impossibility. But again, that may depend on your understanding of worship. It seems to me that some people regard worship as a kind of holy sing song, and "worship leader" means someone who leads singing -- a kind of combination of a choir director and a cheer leader. But even if that were one's understanding of worship, could you do it online?

The computer on which I am writing this has no speakers connected. I don't listen to podcasts or watch videos, partly because I'm often surfing the web at 3 am and don't want to wake the family, and partly because I can't afford the bandwidth. But if I were to join in singing hymns at 3:00 am the family would soon be very annoyed.

3 comments:

Yvonne said...

The Ship of Fools people made an online church a few years ago, apparently. There are also various churches in Second Life, and a labyrinth. But I can't imagine doing rituals online - you need the physical presence of other people and the ritual/sacred space. Rituals involve bodies as well as minds.

On a slightly different note, one thing I found odd about Orthodox liturgy is that it just starts - there's no preparation phase to get you in the liturgical mood (or if there is, it didn't work for me, perhaps because it's so dissimilar from Wicca that I just didn't notice; maybe it's the person reading a text as you go in). Any thoughts on this?

Steve Hayes said...

Yvonne,

Yes, I see worship as involving ritual, but in Orthodox worship there is (from a Western Christian point of view) too much preparation. They would say that we prepare for the preparation and give thanks for the thanksgiving.

Father David Heron said...

Receiving Communion via the internet would be somewhat difficult

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