I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. You know, the one that says ‘I don’t need Google, my wife knows everything!’
Seriously, how did we survive before Google and the Internet? As I write this reflection, I am attending the Assembly Meeting in Perth and I must say that during the sessions I am amazed at how many people are operating from tablets, computers and mobile phones. Seems Assembly is embracing the paperless meeting and accessing information, news, proposals and reports online. Either that or people are not paying attention and checking Facebook or Googling things!
Google has become a verb. How often have you solved an argument on the latest sports score by saying, ‘I’ll Google that!’ When I was young, we consulted encyclopaedias for assignments or when we wanted to know something interesting about some obscure subject. These days, young people live and ask questions online. And it’s hardly just the young.
So here’s the thing about being connected. You can find out all sorts of things, but you have to largely disconnect from those around you to do it! I am always amazed at the number of people waiting at a bus stop who have their head down, checking their mobile phones. Or pedestrians texting while crossing the street.
I have never been a great multi-tasker. In attending to people, I need to give them my full attention as I am easily distracted. But is this just because I come from a generation where this is how I learned to interact?
Here’s the other thing I know. I depend on Google and the Internet for more and more information. White pages? A thing of the past. Synod directory? Online. Printed papers for a meeting? Use Dropbox or Boardpad. God? Well…
So how do we engage with the Information Age and not lose the things that are important to us? How will we continue to connect with real people and not just ‘virtual’ friends? Will it change the way we ‘do’ church? Couldn’t we all just stay at home and dial-in? What value do we place on being with others in a digital age? How can technology enhance our mission?
The answer is, in part, to use the technology available to us to reach those who are searching for community online. To make sure when someone Googles “Where’s my local Church?” or “Who is Jesus Christ?” that we are there, with our websites and technology to answer those questions and bring those people who are increasingly disenfranchised with institutionalised church back to our communities of faith. To speak into their lives through the technology they use every day.
After all, if we are serious about being a church that speaks to the margins, we need to see that in the 21st century the margins are moving online.
In this way we can embrace emerging technologies to enhance communities of faith and life, both online and offline. We can assist in forming faith, rather than destroying it. We can seek out the new ‘digital natives’ and bring them into our faith communities.
If our future is digital, I hope we also never forget we are an analogue, flesh and blood people. A people of the ‘logos’ – the Word of God. A people for whom story, and storytelling, is important. So whether you are reading this in print form or online, make sure you take time to spend time with real people today, as well as checking in to Church on Facebook.
God made us for community!
Rev. Andrew Williams, General Secretary