Tuesday, May 17, 2011

St. Smartphone and All Apps

During Advent, I was curious to see the man on the back row of the chapel staring at his smartphone throughout the service.  He was reciting the prayers along with the rest of us, but no book.  I learned he was using the Book of Common Prayer app on his mobile device.  Seems the 1979 prayer book not only needs a revision; it's becoming a relic.

The crazy fast advances of technology have been a lot for the analog generation to absorb not to mention those of us who have straddled the switch over from analog to digital.   I've been aware that many of those who fall into that category that the church drools over, the "Young Families" or "Young Adults with the Potential to Become a Young Family", are attached to their iPhones, iPads, Droids, etc.   They check Facebook and they use Twitter as a way of conversing with friends in the same room as well as across the world.  As such, I have thought that those who are in the church and want to attract this group to visit and possibly join a parish need to learn how to use those tools to reach this audience.

Note: I said, "Use the tools to reach the audience."  

On one of my listserves, there's been much dust kicked up over an article on the CNN religion blog, "My Take: How Technology Could Bring Down the Church" by Lisa Miller.   Many have argued that nothing can replace the community that church provides, especially when gathered around the altar rail for the Eucharist.  Some have fired back that the ones who prefer to read their Bibles on Kindles and Smartphones are not necessarily drawn to the Eucharist.   Again, I think the argument shouldn't be framed around an "either/or" but more of a "both/and".   

Take my man who appeared in our chapel on a regular basis during Advent to recite Morning Prayer.  He still came into the building because there is something different when two or three are gathered together participating in a ritual as opposed to doing it at home alone with a phone.   

I think where the church falls down is when it takes the attitude that what they have inside their building is so precious it can't be shared via technology.  It absolutely can, and should.  Can a person receive the host in their hand through technology?  Of course not.  But if that's important to the person, then it will entice them to come into the church... if they have learned about that church through technology.

The part that worried me in the CNN article was the idea that people want to read their Bible sans any "interference" from stuffy ol' Church.   If you've ever tried to read the Bible straight up, you're liable to throw the thing across the room as you encounter multiple inconsistencies, back-tracking, not to mention the tongue-twisting names of the Hebrew Scriptures.  And that's not even touching the acid-trip that is Revelation.   In that sense, there is a place for "stuffy ol' Church", especially if it can be presented in a way that isn't so stuffy.   And that's where it takes people, not merely machines, to make the difference. Whatever the church is doing inside has to have enough life to attract those on the outside.  In the case of many parishes, that falls on the person preaching because the only thing made available via the web is the sermon.  But what if churches were to do more?   What if they were develop apps that allow people to hear the music as well as the sermon?   Or put it on people within the congregation to create a buzz through Twitter or on a Facebook page?  

St. Smartphone and All Apps could be the tool of every church's future.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you think more people would come to church?