In 2001, my college communications professor angered the class by assigning a research paper and then forbidding the use of the internet as a research tool.
She told us we had to find our information…at the library.
Even though many of us were juniors in college and had lived on campus for three years, I heard hushed whispers filled with anxiety.
Where is the library? I’ve never even been inside?
No one uses the library! This is what Wikipedia is for, right?
If I use the library, I can’t wait until the night before to start my assignment!
And this was 14 years ago.
An entire generation has come up since that time, a generation that has never known a time before Wikipedia and Google searches. A generation that may grow up never having had a landline, or knowing life before social media.
I don’t offer this as condemnation of the next generation, but as an observation of how much the world has changed in a very short time. And, these changes have had an impact on the way we do life together as human beings.
This week, I posted 8 Things to Consider When People Aren’t Singing at Church over on my own blog, and the comments that followed were insightful and challenging. But one comment pointed to a reality I hadn’t even considered.
AKHF wrote this: Fewer and fewer people participate in group singing any more — kids mostly attend concerts with music that does not have catchy tunes and so loud that most have hearing losses. Before we blame churches, need to look at the larger culture IMO.
What stood out to me the most in her comment was the assertion that fewer and fewer people participate in group singing anymore. But beyond that, I think many of us participate in fewer and fewer group activities at all – singing or otherwise.
We text to talk. We workout with ear buds in. We socialize on Facebook. We research via Google.
We FaceTime instead of spending time face-to-face.
We have forgotten how to be together.
We have forgotten what it means to be in community, to share with each other, to be vulnerable together.
We have found ways to talk to each other without seeing each other, to communicate on our own terms and at our own convenience.
And not all of this is bad. I am thankful for social media that allows my parents to see pictures of my kids even though miles separate us. The internet has given us access to more information than we have ever had at our fingertips before, and this can be a wonderful thing.
But, I also think the more time we spend in solo endeavors, the more unnatural, scary, and awkward community can be. We have trained ourselves to be self-sufficient, and community teaches interdependence.
Even though group singing, corporate prayer, potluck meals, and prayer groups feel unnatural to us, they are precisely what we need. In the reformed tradition, we believe we need this fellowship so much that it’s an article of faith. We say this often: every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and every time we baptize someone. We say it often because we don’t want to forget. This is our story. This is our heart. This is what it means to belong and believe together.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
We need each other, but we aren’t used to being together, singing together, reading together, or praying together.
It’s a lot like my college class wandering awkwardly into the library. We didn’t know where anything was. We had to ask someone to help us. We reached out and fumbled the books on the shelves as though we were learning something new just by being there. We had to touch the books, feel the pages, smell the scent of history. We were transformed simply by being there.
And the longer we were there, the more we became people who knew where things were, what things meant, and how to study.
In the church we have to continue these practices as a body. We can’t let them go just because they feel unnatural or antiquated. They are forming and shaping us into people who look more like a body than we ever did before.
And that body is the way Christ becomes present to the world.
Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I like to pick a word that speaks to me and try to live with that word for the year. This year, my word is present, and I invite you to join me in making an effort to be more present in your life and in your community this year. When the moment strikes, I will post on Twitter with the hashtag #BePresent2015. Feel free to participate in this with me!