By Pam Hrncir, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Elizabeth Drescher in her introduction summarizes Digital Cathedral very well: “(it) invites us to explore the way Christian practices can play out in a networked world” (xiv). At 52, I am not very well versed in the digital world. My main on-line presence is on Facebook and even that is limited. For this digital illiterate, Digital Cathedral gave a new perspective on how our use of the digital world can “establish and nurture relationships” (67) and help remind us of our innate value and purpose.
Anderson spends a fair amount of time explaining how the cathedral of Canterbury was built and in the process of being built was very interconnected with the plumber, his wife the brewer (yes beer), the physician, the baker, and another 3000 townspeople in a “symbiotic relationship” (22). For Anderson, a cathedral is not a building or institution set apart of from the rest of the community but instead a cathedral is “in relationship” with the neighborhood and the people around it. Digital Cathedral is NOT about creating an on-line church. Digital Cathedral encourages us and shows us how to connect and be “in relationship” with our community both digitally and in person.
I have to say I have been skeptical about the on-line world. I have witnessed how it can cause pain rather than connect. That said, Anderson provides plenty of ways demonstrating how the digital world can help us connect with the goal of creating “spaces to be encountered, places to become persons one-to-another, to confess their need and to be known, to dwell in and with one another” (70).
The only perspective I wish Anderson had included was of those not attending church. The whole goal of going outside the church is to build meaningful relationships with those so-called spiritual but not religious people. I want to hear from the people in pub and coffee shop ministries or any other ministry that is not in a church. What is it that makes these types of ministries safe and relevant?
So, I decided to be a little more out there on Facebook. I posted my triplets senior pictures. Now, I get for the digital savvy person this is a regular occurrence. However, I rarely post anything. Getting some help from my son, he loaded the pictures and said now say something. What? Say something? I was real witty. “Senior pictures”. The comments from people that followed were my “ah ha” moment. I heard from people who knew them as babies in San Antonio, their preschool teachers, baby sitters and friends in Ottawa, IL, their friends and family from Abilene, TX (the elementary years), from friends and family all over. People I knew well and people not so well. In the span of 24 hours, people around the country shared in the joy of my 18 year old triplets. Before Facebook, how could we ever connect in that capacity? Amazing.
Encouraged, I branched out. I normally don’t get past the “like” button. A friend had posted an article of a parent’s thoughts at high school graduation. I decided to comment “Thanks for sharing. My eyes are tearing up. It’s getting real”. She replied, “It’s getting real here to”. Now, I know for all you digital experts are like “really Pam?” But I had another “ah ha” moment. All over my Facebook community, parents with graduating kids are experiencing this bizarre mixture of grief, excitement, joy, fear as we go through this unknown but inevitable transition. Facebook allows us to connect and be “in relationship” through this common reality. My “ah ha” moments show me that, used wisely, the digital world connects people through shared experiences. As pastors, we can uncover God in those experiences and expose the holy and sacred of our every-day lives.
Digital Cathedral will most definitely be a resource for this digital novice. Social media is not going away and it plays an important part in people staying connected. Therefore, I am going to increase my on-line presence. I also hope I can be an apprentice to some pub/coffee shop type ministries. I learn best by doing. Now, I am off to get a Twitter and Instagram account.