Relationships aren’t the means to an end, they are the end. How can community be the Good News we seek to be – both digitally and not digitally?
Simon: Online activity rehearses face-to-face and celebrates the real face-to-face contact. It can’t be the Good News.
But surely a technological child will only be partly fulfilled and need online community.
Sylvie: Real church but where it lets you down you use online community. Heidi Campbell’s research shows that the pastoral care of the ill etc., can’t be linked to digital ministry.
Did she feel real riding is better than digital riding?
Simon: Yes, being fully present, e.g. the smell of the manure! Similarly with the full community presence of one to another. Some very significant issues that the digital world can’t make real or realise. Can digital spaces re-connect people up to face-to-face contact.
John: Generationally there is a difference in how we use digital media. The Christian community delivering pastoral care and cookies when ill won’t happen as the Church is so dysfunctional. When in hospital had 400 people via text, twitter, facebook saying care for you, pray for you etc.
There are two sides of the same coin – it isn’t less real, less pastoral, more corrupted, more abusive – it is just different.
Have any of the panel had experience of the digital mourning of a young person online and the stopping of that online?
Simon: Haven’t had that experience, but interesting issue around the finiteness of physical world and the endlessness of the digital world.
Sylvie: The spiritual question they were interested in dealing with but not willing to let go. But also the difficulties people experience when closing the estate of an online presence.
Simon: People want to know everything about you and so they sell the information about you.
John: The rise of shrines in the street is similar but not connected to the digital rise. Is this not a missional opportunity to have this conversation and to investigate realistic views of death in the light of the church.
Issue of peer pressure feeling like now need to say something otherwise I’m not a good friend.
Sometimes social media is like a plug-in drug, how can we help people with this?
Simon: Addicted not to friendship but to the result of that.
Check out CODEC and Bex Lewis’ thoughts at Durham Uni.
How do we bring the end of the church or do we persevere with the church?
John: What does redemption look like when trapped in a structure which you knew is falling down around your ears. What does the future of discipleship look like for those people. Hang in for the time being as people are looking to resolve this, partly because when the thing collapses and the dust settles we need to have creative people to reshape the 2,000 years of history. No sympathy with Alan Hirsch who say don’t get involved with the institution of the church as it is what we have. Huge numbers of people who have become Christians and if it was completely useless we wouldn’t have these people in the churches.
What does church need to look like for the 90% who don’t connect with church. Church House Westminster is not the centre of the church, they are in the global South doing church in different ways. We are still centred on Christendom and that the church is in our hands, but ecclesiologically it isn’t in our hands, and theologically it is in God’s hands so we need to recognise our place.
Sylvie: We need to keep the tradition and the community of church so don’t see the demise of the church as a good thing that we want tomorrow.
What would each of the panelists like us to take away from today to encourage us in our work?
John: The prophetic need is to identify the right way to ask the questions rather than always knowing the answers.
Sylvie: A point of encouragement from research the faith-based youth work was appreciated by non-Christians and Christians as they provided a non-judgemental community space and allow young people to talk about faith in a way that they couldn’t in their local church.
Simon: A keenly developed sense of what it means to be in community and to form and shape activities in whatever shape. The need for community, to be real and present, to be able to handle the complexities of life is needed more.