This week I stumbled on a commercial that was created for an event commemorating Canada’s 150th anniversary. Canada decided to celebrate with “Eat Together” Day this summer. The commercial, which you can see here, features a woman, surrounded by people on their phones wrapped up in their own worlds, not acknowledging each other’s presence. Fed up, she grabs her roommate, her small kitchen table and chairs, and sets dinner out in the hallway of their apartment complex. Slowly, people emerge from the elevator and are invited to sit down. Others hear the commotion, come out of apartments, and add tables, chairs, and food to the impromptu gathering. People of all colors, ethnicities, and ages sit at the table, perhaps hearing and seeing each other for the first time.
Modern technology did not create the longing to be connected. The need has always been there. But technology has shifted how we connect. We can now feel closer to friends in distant places, keep up to date on news stories that were buried or hard to find, and even connect with strangers with whom we have a lot in common. But connecting online sometimes means we are no longer available for the person sitting on the couch next to us, waiting in line at the grocery store, or living next door. In a desire to connect from afar, we sometimes forget to connect nearby.
I am usually one of the last to criticize the ways in which technology helps us connect. In this past week alone, I have been grateful for the ways social media has enabled me to hear when a friend or family member is safe after a storm, to see that good things are still happening to my friends who are living in areas of conflict, and to learn when friends are blessed with new babies, marriages, and milestones. In fact, this weekend Christians around the world will be participating in “Social Media Sunday,” a Sunday to embrace the ways social media helps us connect both virtually and in real time to our neighbors, friends, and strangers.
At Hickory Neck, we will be joining other churches as we celebrate the ways social media brings us together. But part of what we are celebrating this Sunday is how social media takes the connections we make online, and brings them to the table – the Eucharistic table, where, like that video “Eat Together,” people encounter one another in meaningful, vulnerable, and powerful ways. We can certainly be transformed by Social Media, but nothing can replace the taste of communion bread and wine on your tongue, the experience of brushing shoulders at the altar rail with someone very different from you, and the power of God’s blessing that comes at the table. So by all means, post about Hickory Neck Episcopal Church, bringing your cell phones and tablets to church. But also make time and room this week to “Eat Together” at God’s table. I suspect that the connections you make at the Eucharistic Table will enrich the virtual table you have created online.