This past weekend, Williamsburg was hit with over a foot of snow. Living in an area without many plows, and serving in a church without a Rectory on the campus, I knew that Sunday services at Hickory Neck would be nearly impossible. Our parking lot did not get plowed until early Monday morning, and many of our parishioners live on rural roads. With great disappointment, I cancelled all Sunday services. But then my husband turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You should lead Morning Prayer on Facebook Live!”
That night I put together a video to tell people what we were going to do and where they should go to join me in worship. And on Sunday morning, at 10:00 am, I went live. By the time we had finished, there were over 60 views. By the time we got to the end of the day, there were over 300 views. By Tuesday night, there were over 700 views. The positive feedback poured in – from our parishioners, from their neighbors, and from dozens of people who were snowed in all up and down the Atlantic coast.
As I have thought about the experience, I realized what a gift technology can be. Isolated in homes, people were able to come together and pray the same prayers, hear the same readings, confess our sins, lift up our intercessions and thanksgivings, and give glory to God. So often we talk about the challenge of the church is being tied to the walls of the physical building, not taking the Gospel out in the world. Our experience on Facebook felt like a little way of getting ourselves out in the world, and sharing the beauty of worship in virtual community.
Of course, I don’t think church can always be expressed in virtual ways. Being physically present with one another allows us to engage all our senses, to read the body language of someone who is suffering or experiencing joy, and to engage in the holy meal that brings us together despite our divisions. But the experience certainly made me realize that we can supplement that communal physical experience with communal virtual experiences. And once you show your neighbor that cool video from your church, then, like Jesus in our Gospel lesson this coming Sunday, you can say, “Come and see!”[i]
[i] John 1.39.