By Contributor Rev. Jim CastroLang
I am a “social media writer” for SpokaneFAVS. I care about the ways social media can help spiritual communities. For many years I have been advocating the potential for good that can come from the tools of technology. I am a veteran of almost 30 years through “trial and error” dating back to 1984 when I got my first computer. Less than a decade later, I was spending countless hours online in the Ecunet Community.
A spiritual community needs to focus on developing its communication tools for sharing, relationship building and living out its vision. I will discuss some of these tools in this space. I will use the phrase “spiritual community” to describe any church, denomination, synagogue, temple, mosque, or group of people who organize themselves around common spiritual beliefs, practices or principles.
As a pastor in the United Church of Christ, I have heard people lodge two key criticisms of the use of social media. First, all this social media is distracting people from building the meaningful relationships we focus on in our spiritual community. And second, face-to-face communication is what spiritual communities are about — everything else offers so much less. I am not interested in social media for marketing purposes. I am interested in social media for its potential for bringing people together and enhancing the development of spiritual communities.
Last summer when the United Church of Christ had its national gathering (General Synod) in Tampa, Fla., I brought the church I pastor to the conference without ever leaving our town of Colville. I wanted the people in my church to connect to the energy of the people gathered in Tampa. With the live feed coming from the synod and the big screen in our sanctuary, I encouraged the people in my church to “attend the synod” from our pews. We downloaded and printed the bulletins for worship and shared in singing the songs and contributing our voices to the common responses. We had a table with synod resources such as resolutions up for a vote. I used Twitter and Facebook to interact with those in Tampa and around the country who participated in this great five-day event. As synod was coming to a close, one of the delegates in Tampa from our conference told me how much it meant that we were participating from afar. He said, “We felt connected to you back home. So often we go to these events. We get energized but back home no one understands. This time we didn’t feel alone.” Through the use of social media, there were people in Tampa who were certain that I was there in the hall with them. My church was not in Tampa but my church did attend the synod.
My writings will explore the ways we can strengthen our connection with each other, even when we are not in the same room. I hope to hear your stories and learn of areas you would like me to address. Strengthening our connections one to another and building our spiritual communities can bring hope to a hurting world.