Technology In the Sanctuary: The Story of a Revolution
What happens to the social and cultural foundations of a traditional institution and its members when they are pushed to embrace new technologies of the internet? Or, phrased differently, when these new technologies force their way into the most sacred spaces?
If I were talking to educators working to foster new mindsets, practices, and perspectives of teaching and learning, the answer most often would be, “Not much,” or even, “Nothing.”
Education is one of America’s sacred spaces. Today, though, I’m talking about a different institution. It even has its own icon: a boulder in a patch of grass on the Plymouth, MA waterfront.
Plymouth Rock commemorates the landing of the pilgrims in America. As the story goes, these deeply religious Christians made the pilgrimage from England because they wanted to worship freely. This form of Protestantism, characterized by exacting behavioral standards, became the bedrock of the new colonies. Conservative Christianity remains a powerful force in today’s nation. It’s the institutions of Christianity, the churches, that I wonder about in my opening question(s).
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
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About three years ago, I moved to the west coast. Part of settling in was finding a church, which took about a year.
Not long after, I found myself on the church’s communications committee, affectionately known as ComCom. ComCom was a new committee in the church. More accurately, it was a committee resurrected (no pun intended) and in the process of redefining itself.
Some months later, when the chair of the committee moved, I found myself drafted to take over her role as chair, as well as step into her seat on the church’s governing body. We went from what we thought was a simple task, creating a pictorial directory of church members, to being at the center of a technological and organizational maelstrom. To be honest, it was a maelstrom we played a part in making. But every time we asked a hard question that exposed a new issue that needed addressing, we also took the lead in finding solutions.
Now, two years later, we are months into the COVID-19 crisis. ComCom again finds itself as a key player in how the church is responding to the ever-changing circumstances. Our pastors and church leadership say we, as a church, would not be where we are today without ComCom’s work.
Where, precisely, is that? What happened to get us here? What are the implications?
More specifically, what insights might the story of one church’s communications journey offer to other social and cultural institutions, in particular, the world of education?
My gut tells me there are important parallels to explore. Maybe I’m wrong. But a pandemic stay-home order provides the perfect opportunity to start thinking– and writing– like an ethnographer.
So, hello, blog. I’m back.