Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Virtual Church - a good idea?

I’ve recently been introduced to a really good development from Baptist House!  It’s called Daily News Sweep and it comes from the editorial team of the old Baptist Times (to get it simply go on the Baptist Times pages of The Baptist Union website).  This news roundup lands in the ‘in-box’ of my computer every day and is packed with interesting stories, basically of a ‘faith’ nature, gleaned from the press.  Today, for example, I read about the reluctance of many Anglicans in Africa, South America and Australasia to continue recognising The Archbishop of Canterbury as the head of their Communion – seems like Rowan Williams’ successor is in for a choppy time.

Another story from today’s Sweep caught my eye and is entitled: The Deep Limitations of Digital Church.  It was written by the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr Albert Mohler.  In it he basically lamented a growing trend in the United States (and perhaps here in Britain too?) of people staying away from ‘live’ church in favour of simply tuning in to a webcast of the service at their convenience; sermons ‘on tap’ (with the ability to fast forward no doubt!) and fellowship at a safe distance....but is it really church?  Dr Mohler gives an emphatic ‘no’!

Now I have to admit to doing a bit of this myself.  I regularly tune in to the webcast of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto most Mondays – I just love the minister’s sermons and the fine music.  This church also puts its order of service and notice sheet on their site – so (with a bit of detective work) I’ve even worked out the names of some of the choir members who sit on the front row and found myself saying the other week – ‘oh, Rosemary isn’t there today’!  Hang on – I’m three and a half thousand miles from Toronto – what am I doing noticing a missing choir member!! It’s fun but it’s not real fellowship.

Real fellowship is about that regular weekly commitment to come together as the People of God around His Word and Table.  Real fellowship is singing, praying, listening and serving together.  Real fellowship is sharing our joys and sorrows together in this journey of faith.  Real fellowship isn’t always easy but it always holds the potential for that touch of the Holy Spirit that turns a routine gathering into a service of worship.

So although I’m not going to give up on my webcast viewing – I recognise that the real thing for me doesn’t happen thousands of miles away in Toronto but here in Yeovil, at a church on South Street.

With best wishes,


Ian

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