From a Twitter discussion, I ended up on a website with introductions of people being nominated for bishop (no I’m not putting my name forward!). I was intrigued by one of the questions each had to answer:

The institutional church continues to operate on the basis of an older and passive “open the doors and they will come” paradigm. Yet the coronavirus pandemic has worked to accelerate a societal move away from gatherings oriented around physical buildings and a shift toward online formation of community. What thought have you given to the ways in which we might continue to be a vibrant church in the face of these societal changes and the increasing distance between the life of the church and the everyday life of individuals? What experience would you draw on to prepare parishes and individuals to embrace necessary change with enthusiasm and hope?

Virtual Last Supper

The contention that COVID has accelerated a societal move from physical to online gatherings of community is worth seeking corroboration of, as is the underlying assertion that prior to COVID society was already moving from physical to online gatherings of community.

Certainly, church has had a very passive “open the doors and they will come” model. Get a great preacher in; have a wonderful worship band; organise a good children’s programme; set up an awesome youth group… and they will come. Actually – those days have gone. In-drag no longer works; it is out-reach all the way…

I think the church has been bad a nineteenth-century technology (good street signage), bad a twentieth-century technology (websites), and now struggling with twenty-first-century technology (social media…). My extra concern is that in countries like mine (New Zealand) where we have had very, very little time affected by COVID and honing skills of zoom (etc) and other online presences, we will be even further behind the rest of the world’s movement “away from gatherings oriented around physical buildings and a shift toward online formation of community”.

Certainly, in the past, sharing what we (ordained or lay) learn in prayer and contemplation, in study and in our growing relationship with God happened within the context of a physically gathered community. That is no longer the only place. In fact, one might nowadays more fruitfully and more widely share and grow online. That, I think, is the heart of my quote above.

What do you think?

images: the top image is mine; if you use it please credit & link. I cannot ascertain the original of the second image.

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