Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is the Eucharist "Amped" Enough

Almost every church I know is clamoring for a Facebook or a cool webpage. Heck our parish just updated ours. It's pretty good, not too busy - tells people about who we are and how we're trying to serve Christ. Yes, and...I'm pretty sure that alot of people know by now that having a cosmic website doesn't mean squat if your worship isn't very good or your people aren't very friendly. It's fine to have an excellent restaurant ad. Sure, people will come to eat at your place until they figure out that the pasta is mushy and the wine list is lame.

Here's another thing though. It's becoming even more clear that Church and faith in general are becoming less and less relevant to young adults. The Barna Group's 2010 research reports that
teenagers prioritize their education, career development, friendships, and opportunities to travel more so than their religious beliefs. "Faith is significant to them, but it takes a back seat to life accomplishments and is not necessarily perceived to affect their ability to achieve their dreams." (Barna Group, 2010, para. #5) They also report "in a period of history where image is reality, and life-changing decisions are made on the basis of such images, the Christian Church is in desperate need of a more positive and accessible image." (Ibid, para. #13).

Twitter, Google, I-Phone, and Facebook on the other hand are resources that absolutely work for the "TGiFs." (Natives to the virtual age that were born after 1990). They can connect with one another without ever leaving their room or even when they are sitting next to one another. The world is as close as their thumbs to their "Droid." So, will "Facebook Kill the Church?" If Beck is correct, millennials don't need organized religions anymore because
the digital world provides a sense of community that used to be the purview of churches and other communities of faith.

Millions of people have clicked on Justin Bieber's "Pray" video. Is that because they think that Bieber's hot and they like his voice? Is that because the song speaks to them in some way that Sunday Morning hymns don't? I dunno. Here's what I think though - I think that the sacraments still connect with people young and old alike in a way that YouTube videos don't; maybe not for everybody but at least for some people.

I think that Professor Matthew Wilson of Southern Methodist University is on to something when he says: "For the sacramental traditions, however, the digitizing of worship is simply not an option. The central element of any Catholic or Orthodox liturgy is the Eucharist, and the sacramental transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and subsequent feeding of the faithful cannot be done virtually.(Wilson, 2011, para. #13). The mystery of the Eucharist can't be virtually duplicated. The presence of Christ in the elements and in the people can't be zipped up, attached, and e-mailed to somebody who is not in church on a Sunday morning. I think that's a good thing because those sorts of personal and transformational moments are uniquely "tactile."Sharing the Eucharist is still an act of thanksgiving that requires people to be in communion with one another and with God. I think it means something else too. We've got to somehow communicate to people that the Eucharist is meaningful and just as important as their college or summer vacation plans. Spending time with people away from the computer and with The Divine is worthwhile.

Organizations like The Table Project and SoChurch are creating social networks and software to help churches connect with people. TGiFs should LOVE this stuff - it's kinda sexy and even appealing. The question nonetheless remains, how much energy are we willing to devote to making the Eucharist not only accessible but "amped" (energetic). There are risks that we need to take such as sharing our faith with our mouths as well as with our Facebook pages.

Last week, we had a bunch of new people who visited us. Some of them visited our webpage. Others were invited by their friends or neighbors. I don't know how all of them found their way to us. I do know, it's important to find out just as it is important to figure out why people do or don't come back a second or third time.

Oh one other thing, the Barna Group is preaching the Gospel when they say "To facilitate service as a long-term way of living and to provide people with the intrinsic joy of blessing others, churches have a window of opportunity to support such action with biblical perspective." That's a story that we can share with people who are members of any social network that we belong to .... and it's an invitation for them to join us at the table for a holy meal intended for everyone who desires to encounter Christ in meaningful ways.

Blessings Along The Way,

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