Rev. David Hansen (@Rev_David), pastor at St. John Lutheran Church of Prairie Hill just outside of Brenham, Texas, is an active participant in #chsocm. He also provides content, generates conversation, and makes me laugh via DM in between weekly chats.
Before going any further, a confession: I’ve been known to live-tweet a liturgy or sermon.
Yes indeed, that was me with my phone out, tapping away. I may have even taken a picture or two (no flash – everyone has their limits). I confess. I did it.
To be clear: this is not a confession in the sense of asking for forgiveness, but in the sense of declaring, affirming, and acknowledging. I did it and I’m glad I did it.
I’ve discovered that I am not someone who can just sit quietly and listen. It doesn’t work for me. I figured this out in college and grad school. If I sat and listened attentively – kept eye contact with my professor, didn’t allow myself to be distracted, etc. – then I totally got the material during class. As soon as I left the room, it was gone.
But if I engaged with the material somehow – during the lecture itself – it stuck with me. Occasionally this meant an engaging classroom discussion, either with the professor or classmates. More often this meant taking notes – extensive notes – notes that covered what the professor said, as well as my reactions to and thoughts about the material. If I could engage with the material while receiving it, it stayed with me.
The same is true in worship. If I just sit – worshipfully, attentively – I'll certainly get something out of it. Worship has every chance of being uplifting, grace-filled, and moving. And yet, as soon as I leave the worship space, any learning or insight begins to evaporate.
But if I engage with the worship service –take service notes on my bulletin, or tweet what moved me in the sermon, or ask a question on Facebook provoked by the sermon – then it all stays with me. I’ll be able to carry it with me beyond the worship space and into my life – and isn’t that the point?
In fact, in my tradition, we occasionally require just such behavior from worshipers. How many Lutheran pastors have required confirmation students to take sermon or worship notes? Isn’t that the same sort of engagement that happens when someone uses social media during worship?
Are there ways to do this that can be too distracting to other worshipers? Are there people just playing games on their phones? Absolutely, but some of us are able to listen better precisely because we're using our phones.