31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
August 30, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Recently, I came across this quote, “The nomad spirit of modernity has dashed the integrity of community – but not the need for it.” (Harold Beekser, Patches of Godlight: Father Tim’s Favorite Quotes by Jan Karon) “The nomad spirit of modernity has dashed the integrity of community – but not the need for it.”
We need community. We need community. As Christians, we follow the one who said “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20), so of course we believe community is important. Of course, we believe it is important to nurture the ties that bind us.
In such a time as this, we need community; however you might be thinking, we can’t build community right now. Because how do you do that in this artificial, social media, head in a box format? Don’t you need to be face to face, in person, to nurture real community, authentic life and soul nurturing community?
Heidi Campbell doesn’t think so. As both a pastor and a professor of communications at Texas A&M, she has been researching new media, religion, and digital culture since the 1990’s, and the Rev. Dr. Campbell has discovered that whether we are online or offline, digital or in person, people are looking for the same thing in a faith community: connection, relationship, and a shared faith.
And Campbell believes that sometimes that connection, that relationship, that sharing of faith, and the building of authentic spiritual community might happen better online. In her interview on Leading Ideas Talks, she shared this story of going to a large church for a service during Holy Week.
And I’m in this place full of a lot of people. People on either side of me. But yet there was no space in the service to actually interact. And you know people at the end of the service just kind of dispersed. And so it’s like, I go here to celebrate this communal event – [Communion], the Passing of the Peace. But I feel very disconnected from the people in this room. And then I walked up to the computer lab at my university. And I logged on and was doing some of my online [research] in an online group where we’re using an early form of a chat room, and talking, and having a prayer meeting. And I began reflecting, “Wow! I know more about these people that I have never met, that are on the other side of the screen, and had more interaction than I did with these people on either side of me [at the worship service].”
For so long, my mindset has been that community, especially spiritual community, is created, nurtured, by in person interactions. The dean of admissions for my seminary used to say that you couldn’t know someone until you share a pound of salt with them – which requires lots and lots of shared meals. However, when I heard this interview with the Rev. Dr. Campbell, I took to heart her words that physical proximity does not necessarily make us a community.
Real, authentic spiritual community is like Cheers – where everyone knows your name and is glad you came – where you can share what is important to you, what makes you ‘you’. Real, authentic spiritual community goes beyond knowing each other’s names. It’s where we can really be us, authentically us, no need to dress up our bodies, put on a happy face or pretend that our lives and families are perfect. And real, authentic spiritual community is that place where people will receive all of that and be honored that we have entrusted them with our hearts and souls. Real, authentic spiritual community is where we pray with one another, work beside one another, nurture one another.
Not only is it possible to nurture our Christian relationships and community online, this digital format might be an even better way to get to know one another because online, we interact in different ways than we do in person. We respond to what might have previously been rhetorical questions, which lets us know others a little bit more and lets them know us a little bit more. We can all “talk” at the same time, and every time you type into the chat or comment, it says your name and maybe your picture, which is great for those of us who are good with faces and bad with names.
It has not always been easy however in these last months, we have embraced the new that God is doing in our church and in our lives and that includes deepening the ties that bind us and building authentic, real spiritual community as we gather electronically.
So this morning, I’m not going to remind you why we need community. You can go back and watch the messages from the Creating Connections worship series from last January and February on FCC Bristol’s Youtube channel.
Instead, we are going to build community, get to know one another, get to know one another better. Yes, here online. My apologies if you are with us on Facebook Live without an account and do not have a way to interact. Feel free to jump over to Zoom – and if you are not getting the bulletin with the Zoom link, absolutely send your email address and mailing address to the church office.
Authentic community, real, life and faith nurturing community is about knowing each other so I invite you to share your answers to the following questions and to read others’ answers. Because I can’t read all of your comments fast enough while I lead worship, I go back during the week and read them – which you can also do.
Three little questions: What food/foods feel like an absolute treat to you? Would you rather read something, watch something, or listen to something? And where did you experience God and God’s love this past week?
Three little questions are not going to build a community where Jesus is present in our relationships. Three little questions are not going to build a community where we know we will be lifted up if we fall down; however, it’s a start.
For such a time as this, we don’t need people sitting physically beside us. We need people emotionally and spiritually walking with us, carrying one another when we need it, and embodying Christ’s love always. That kind of community, real, authentic, spiritual community is a three fold cord that will never be broken.