Technologies in the Face of Crises

I live in a city deeply rooted in a racist past. Where police brutality against Blacks, indigenous people, other people of color, the unhoused, the mentally ill and drug-addicted, has been under federal investigation. Where current protestors have so much video of individual random cases of brutality that I’ve seen Reddit reports of an online catalog. And, where there are so many protests against brutality and affirming Black lives, at so many different times, in so many pockets of the city, that there is a Black Lives Matter web page and calendar.

I have been overcome with how much pain is flowing through our streets.

And yet, the Thursday Tech Team meetings have continued on schedule. The weekly emergency Session meetings have gone on. Each faces their own decisions and the concomitant tensions, no matter how insignificant they seem in the face of global and national crises. It seems odd that, even under the enduring weight of tragedy, tumult, and fear, our individual lives continue.

Even in the face of this, the congregation’s love affair with what technology makes possible continues:

  • A talent show last night, complete with an Elvis impersonator.
  • A participant’s comment that she attended the show because she saw the announcement on Facebook and had to see who the special guest was. (That would be Elvis.)
  • A pastor’s comment that congregations in other states are following us, as well as the national More Light Presbyterians organization.
  • Another pastor’s comment that a nearby pastor regretted they were doing a Facebook live service, with no congregational interactions.
  • A proposal that appeared in my inbox, from a member not on my committee, for a sound and lighting company to set up the sanctuary for live-streaming when worship resumes. (He’d had the company in for a separate reason, but asked for the quote because, as long as they were there, why not?)
  • And, a month-long study that will begin at the end of the month, in order to discuss, learn, and act to dismantle structural racism. On Zoom.

Maybe it’s not fully a love affair. Zoom-fatigue is real. People miss the physical reality of the pews, the organ, the light streaming through the stained glass windows. They miss the place where worship occurs. They miss conversation. They miss handshakes and hugging. “No one ever promised that technologies could be an equal substitution,” I semi-scolded a pastor early on. But think of what would not have even been possible without it.”

I am a cheerleader, a teacher, a nag. I ask myself, what should my role be now, as awareness of what’s possible begins to take hold. This is where the larger events interfere. I don’t know.

I have thought this week that, soon, I will need to firm up details of what a formal study would be. The closest thing to an IRB review is the Session; I think I need to pursue that. But I don’t know.

And now it’s time to prepare for the emergency Session meeting at noon. There is a significant decision at hand, this one related to the pandemic. It doesn’t stop. And I need to make something for lunch.

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