Sunday, September 4, 2011

Reflection: Why I Don't Tweet in Church

For the past week, I’ve been thinking about our online conversation about tweeting during worship.  Which is odd, given that I wasn’t very interested in it.

I don’t mind if people tweet in church. I know people write notes in church; some are making grocery lists and maybe texting their friends. I know children shuffle around and talk.

I agree education is important. Folks do need to hear that however one wants to take notes is ok, that there are different learning styles. And that tweeting a service may deliver a message that someone out there needs to hear.

So why have I continued revisiting this topic in my head?

I've realized the seminary connection people were making was awry for me.  In seminary, or any classes, I, too, I took copious notes to help me focus. During worship, though, I am not learning content. Instead, I’m standing, sitting, kneeling, singing (lots of singing!), smelling, tasting. And I’m making connections, personal and visual, intellectual and spiritual, by letting things play with each other.

In one church I serve, my seat faces the stained glass Jesus on the cross -- and I hear the sermon with that image in front of me. Or, I look at the other windows and think about their stories or notice the details of folds in Mary’s veil, of shepherds’ knees, of Gabriel’s wing feathers. I hear the Gospel being read, aware of how candlelight glints off the brass cross. I see the self-conscious acolytes with their just-this-side-of-authorized shoes trying to avoid setting their bangs on fire.

I’m looking at, yes, the backs of people’s heads.  Newlyweds with theirs tilted toward one another just so, a mother exchanging glances with her child, a son escaping his father’s attempted arm-around-the-shoulder move. I take note of the person just back from his mother’s funeral, the hunched shoulders of the distressed, the drooping head of the silent weeper, the hair-flipping of the teenager.  I look at all these people who are my community and I’m loving them.

And I’m listening, maybe attentively, maybe less so, to the scripture and to the sermon and to the words of the hymns and thrilling, or not, to the tunes, all of which are available in writing for my review, if I wish.

Mostly, though, I want to let all those things and sensations sweep over me, to mingle in my mind and in my body and in my soul. I’m engaging experience, not material.

Does this mean content doesn’t matter? By no means, but that’s not where I am in my spiritual life right now. I read and go to classes for content, but during worship I’m doing something else.


dickinsonpoet said...

Interesting. It is so refreshingly different from all other aspects of life--I turn my phone off the whole time I am there. I do as you do, I listen. I watch. I want to be open for what is going to happen.

LutheranChurchoftheResurrection said...

I like your description of this problem. I was about to tweet in the middle of service but found I was interrupting the flow of service "washing over" me. Maybe it is better to leave the tweets to before and after service.

Meredith Gould said...

Appreciate your post, Penny.

Either I leave my phone in the car or turn it off completely before walking into the sanctuary. But being a visual-kinesthetic learner, I have been known to doodle or write on the bulletin to focus on the homily.

For everything else, I opt for being guided by the Holy Spirit, never knowing in advance what might move me into a transcendent state.

Two exceptions:

1) I did send out tweets during my tenure in music ministry when in a choir that sang from a loft. It was such a zoo up there anyway and anyone who has served in music ministry knows darn well this is true!

2) Haven't futzed with the phone but have been known to read a magazine during hostage situations (i.e., the Bishop's Appeal video).

My only issue(s) with the whole conversation, as I pointed out in an earlier post, involve(s)the assumptions some folks make about those who are tweeting/ the grim piety that seems to accompany those assumptions about how others embrace -- and are embraced by -- God.

Penelopepiscopal said...

I'm glad this resonates with y'all. We all have different styles and preferences and find ourselves in different places even on our own journeys.

Meredith, my kids who acolyte report that the worst texting offenders at church are in the choir!