Christian Worship, privacy and social media (#deepimpact2012 pt2)


Intro: Been thinking about worship quite a lot since Deep Impact 2012. Partly because i realised it reminds me of spring harvest 20 odd years ago. Partly because it challenged me in an unexpected way. These thoughts are rawish & unexplored. probably containing badly made points so feel free to ignore them. They come with a little experience of standing in pews, worship services and events, and some of organising and leading worship in a few contexts.

what is worship?
worship is time spent noticing God.
It can be done privately or corporately
Private worship it can include personal bible study and prayer times.
Corporately it can include liturgical action such as praising, thanking, invoking, confessing, proclaiming, interceding, and blessing

Worship within an congregational setting is not a private event.
Obvious right? If you gather with a group of other people, the relationship is public.

I do wonder about the individualism of worship. Particularly within songs, songs which refer to ‘I’ or ‘me’ and my relationship to a God. This can be helpful in songs of intimacy and praise, hymns and prayers of lament and confession.
Does this creates a false understanding of the privacy and intimacy of that moment. If I consider that during a public time it is actually a safe environment to have one on one time with God, how does that regard and speak of the others within the church?
The oft quoted ‘where two and three and gathered’ provokes the question about how God deals with each person within that. this questions has some momentum when each member of that group could be worshiping privately and individually while part of the whole.

When we gather for worship, we gather.


We bring our experiences, reflections, happiness and sadness and join together. That joining to notice God can mean different thing to different people but we do things together. Inherent in this is a public notice and reaction. If i do something in a congregation there is an expectation that people will notice and and expectation of a reaction. a smile, a nod, a frown, perhaps a stolen moment of commentary. That is part of a group coming to notice God. The reality that we can notice God in each other.

When David danced in front of God. He did it publicly, literally in front of everyone, (leading the soldiers back from battle). And others started joining in. The story goes that one of his wives looked out the window and saw him and was shocked, catching him later and asking about his actions.

When we join together, we are public. We are deliberately not private. Our gatherings are hopefully advertised, inviting people into churches to be with us. We look for critical engagement with those who have not joined with us.

Privacy is a hot topic with the CCTV, interweb, human rights and personal safety issues involved in the discussion. But privacy in a large gathered group is much harder to contend with. What does this mean for those whose job it is to lead a group in worship. it means our outlook and focus should be on the appropriateness of action within our gatherings for our culture, for how each action helps us notice god, & how we can notice God in a way which causes us to think & play.

Social Media
It would be easy to point to Social Media as something which disrupts our ability to notice God. It is endless and constant in the demands it makes our our time and our skills. With blogs to read (yes, Irony), RSS feeds to check, twitter to update, Facebook to update, thinks to re-tweet, like and comment on. Taking time to notice God seems entirely counter cultural.

For years Christianity especially has dealt in social media. First Communion Cards, Footprints book markers, entire shops of books and things to communicate publicly. With the advent of mass recording, Conferences & Festivals have recorded talks and concerts and sold them to those present and those absent, right up to and including dedicated radio and TV stations across the UK.

The problem comes with the speed of current social media. Twitter expects updates within seconds of each other. Facebook, within minutes. With this speed comes a lack of control. Anyone can say anything, picture anything, and have shared it with millions of people within seconds. This is no possibility of editing the message.

This immediacy gives rise to fear. The real risk of a negative getting out is realistic. Yet social media has the ability to bring those absent physically, into worship. Enabling for joining in and enriching our noticing God. It allows for those opting out of the worship to engage with those within in. It allows for dialogue.

Public worship invites comment and social media provides one of the main ways currently to comment. As a force with the ability to instantly allow for the engagement of a large group of people, it is unbeatable. As a aid to our efforts to notice God in a corporate spaces it is a tool which feels under used, with this great possibilities