It has been a long week, so much to take in but good progress on my research question. So today, I was invited out to the Cotswolds with some friends. The Cotswolds are what inspired Tolkein to call the Hobbits home, The Shire. It is lovely. Here are a few pictures:
The above is St. Mary’s Church
So many views like this, a passageway off the main street into a little neighborhood.
So, now it’s back to the books tomorrow. The process of landing on a research question is becoming more clear everyday. It is a such a daunting process, but the reward will be worth it….in 5 or 6 years. I am grateful and humbled that I get to do this.
I look forward to getting home. I get to preach at All Saints on November 5…’remember, remember the fifth of November’…wait, wrong context. I’ll be back later this week.
As I begin the arduous journey of writing a theses, I am pulled in so many different directions. At the time of this writing, I am interested in technology and the kind of community that can come from it. In other words, can technology provide the interaction, intimacy, and ultimately discipleship relationships that are necessary in Christian community? The American church has suffered greatly with a lack of discipleship and deep community; the end result of this project has to be way toward depth and intimacy.
As cities increase in density, and housing prices soar, the church must have a solution for those who are unable to “keep up with the joneses.” The fact is, churches are needed in cities and neighborhoods, an issue for these churches is sustainability financially, culturally, and theologically. This has become an issue for most churches that reside in cities like Seattle, NYC, Chicago, and LA, to name a few. Another issue facing churches is the transient nature of most urban people. In a city like Seattle, where many people come to pad their resume, the likelihood of a long term stay or the feeling of calling Seattle ‘home’ is generally unlikely. A few reasons for this is the lack of affordability and the American dream of owning a home with a yard and white picket fence. In a city like seattle, single family homes are becoming a snapshot of another time and era. The next step for a young family is to move outside of the city and raise their family. This, then, makes churches in urban centers usually smaller and unable to afford the soaring costs associated with city life.
Can technology be an answer? Can the use of social media foster the community and sustainability that is needed for urban churches to remain present in the neighborhood it is serving? Is technology able to create biblical fellowship that produces and fosters the same intimacies that happen in person to person encounters?
I know, I know, you’ve seen the movie and this is nothing new. Well, I am gaining a whole new appreciation for the metaphor. In this endeavor to study for, and get a PhD, the temptation to take the blue pill is real. (I’m only a week in!). Take the blue pill, go home, and everything stays the same. However, the red pill is all about how deep the rabbit hole goes. I must say the desire to search, uncover, pry open, and discover is much more appealing. The rabbit hole is deep, and I want to know how deep it goes.
The research on technology and faith is uncovering some very interesting research. For instance, church leaders using the internet to keep connections, and keep up with relationships has become common place (from 78% in 2000, to 98% in 2014. Barna Research). The exciting part of technology is the ability to create religious experience and connect people to Christ. This ‘new media’ is being used more and more. I look forward to exploring what that could mean for a church like ours in a city like Seattle.
I’m off to get a glass of water, I need to take a pill….
The first two days have been nothing short of a dump truck backing up to my brain and burying me in information, systems, processes, and learning new research platforms. A huge highlight was receiving my Bodleian library card which allows me access to 10 million volumes and access to one of the world’s greatest libraries. I will be in one of 28 libraries in the Oxford University system everyday (except Sunday) until I come back to the States. (Below: Bodleian Radcliffe Camera – The Radcliffe Camera is a building of Oxford University, designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style and built in 1737–49 to house the Radcliffe Science Library)
I am eager to refine my research and really dig deep into my interest. Currently, I have been reading on technology and community. My takeaway, at this early stage, is the need for the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace and understand technology in ways that are useful and able to connect people in deeper contexts. A question, one of many, I am considering is this: can humans foster the same kind of intimate connections using technology as they can meeting in a physical space? Again, this is one of many and it is very rudimentary.
If you have thoughts, opinions, or resources I should check out, let me know.
I’ll be on later in the week.
I am about to begin work on a PhD, much of it around ways a church, in an urban setting can be sustainable, and provide a place of health, hope, and service to the neighborhood in which it resides. One of those ways to care for a neighborhood is to know about it, and pray for it.
Prayer walking is a great way to get active in prayer and is as simple as it sounds – you pray as you walk. Why not try it and learn more about a place and God’s heart for a community.
24-7 is a prayer network out of the UK that details a way to prayer walk your neighborhood. Please let me know the neighborhood you are prayer walking so I can pray with you.
There are many ways to do it but here are a few suggestions for giving it a go for your neighborhood, and your church.
- Start and end together: agree a place and time to meet to start walking and talking to God together. Begin by explaining why you’ve gathered to pray and a few pointers for those who haven’t prayed this way before. If you’re going to split into smaller groups at any point, then agree a place and time to end together.
- Planned route or a wild goose chase? You can decide ahead of time where you’re going to go or you can simply ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as you walk. Just make sure you don’t get lost!
- Try going out in twos: Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. It’s not intimidating or as conspicuous as a large group can be, and it is safer than people going on their own. If you have a larger group breaking into pairs can help you cover more ground. For safety’s sake you might want to make sure that at least one person on each team has a mobile phone in case you need to contact each other.
- To be seen or not to be seen: you can pray quietly or in a volume that doesn’t draw attention if you’re on a covert prayer mission. Silence is okay too. It’s not about being seen to be praying, it’s about seeing and praying. Having said that, if you feel confident sometimes the Lord can ask us to pray boldly in public!
- Pray the positive: even in areas that are considered ‘dark’ or ‘desperate’, try to pray blessings rather than ‘tearing down’ prayers. Focus on God’s plan, purpose and destiny for the place and the people that live there. “Your Kingdome come, your will be done…” makes an excellent start!
- Ending well: if you’ve gone in different directions why not meet up at the end to share what you’ve felt, seen, prayed and heard from God. If you can keep a record of what you share so you can build on it next time.