The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


July 10, 2009

Going meta

Sometimes, everything happens at once.

I was on vacation for the past two weeks, during which I started Arthur Phillips' new novel, The Song Is You. To say Phillips' novel illustrates the power of music is to put it mildly. As I was reading The Song Is You, an album from my favorite band was released. So I felt rather meta, reading a book about people captivated by music while I was simultaneously soaking in the uncharted-yet-familiar sounds of a new album from a much-loved group.

The protagonists in The Song Is You communicate via all the methods we as readers do: email, texting, mobile video, web messaging. Even though such technology is essential to the plot, it always seems jarring to me to see these new technologies in a book (a hardcover one, at that). Books are so enduring, so tangible, that to include fleeting things such as text and web seems somehow literarily risky.

I returned to work, where I've caught up with Twitter, Facebook and email. In all three places, there are conversations going on about technology and the church. I'm used to that happening in one place at a time, but for it to happen in all three places got my attention.

On Wednesday, Twitter user @newlutheran started a firestorm of good conversation (with @joe_makes_art and others) about congregations and technology with a single post: "Quick comment to Lutheran (and other) churches from a 20-something. If your web site is lame, we'll think your church is, too. Just sayin'."

And today @bethalewis (yup, that's Beth A. Lewis, the CEO of Augsburg Fortress) shared an article ("Few senior surfers sighted") about the adoption of technology by various generations. It's an interesting read that makes one wonder whether technology is irrelevant to a church body of older members, or whether it will be the method by which younger members discover the church.

Are we in the Lutheran church (and related denominations) finally reaching an epiphany about the usefulness of technology? Or not? Because for each person utterly convinced that the church needs to embrace social networking, there's another who thinks that the church is so enduring, so tangible that to use such fleeting things as text and web seems somehow risky.

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