Twittering Religion in America - Part 1 ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Twittering Religion in America - Part 1

After posting about churches in North Carolina encouraging attenders to tweet during Easter services, now Time has picked up the story on how churches across the country are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon. Here's Part 1 of "Twittering Religion in America."

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

John Voelz and David McDonald, senior pastors at Westwinds Community Church, a tech-savvy congregation in Jackson, Michigan, spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter. Congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and Blackberrys.

They also pumped up the bandwidth in the auditorium. During services, the church publicly broadcasts tweets that look like this:
"Nice shirt JVo"

"So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz"

"I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything"

"The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful"

"sometimes healing is painful"

It may seem odd to some, but more churches integrate text-messaging into worship, asking people to bring the act of texting into their relationship with God."

Other churches in the "quirky minority" using Twitter include Seattle's Mars Hill, New York City's Trinity Church, and Next Level Church outside Charlotte.

view us Image by Shira Golding via Flickr

Will it catch on? I don't know. The issue of the use of twitter should probably be seen as part of the general discussion on church and technology.  I'll try to write more about this later....

But as to the use of Twitter, Pastor Voelz reports getting at least 5 emails a week from people asking about how to launch twitter in thier church. They ask, "How did you rig the screen resolution so people could read the tweets?" "What was members' reaction?" And, not surprisingly: "Got any tips to persuade church leadership this is way cool?"

Not everyone is convinced Twitter is a spiritually "good" thing.

One worry about bringing Twitter into church services is how it might alter the experience of worship. 

The Time article writes, "The trick is to not let the chatter overshadow the need for quiet reflection that spirituality requires." Of course, this relates to an assumption that "quiet reflection" is a bottom-line necessity for "spirituality." The 140 character "chatter" of Twitter does not qualify for deep spritual activity for most people.

Texting on a keyboard phoneImage via Wikipedia

Shallow spirituality is not a concern for Robbie McLaughlin who is an attender at Next Level Church.   His experience is interesting to note. 

Although Twitter is not a formal part of the services,
"The graphic designer twittered the Sunday after Easter Sunday and he intends to do it again and again, caught up in the way it has transformed the way he worships.

He likes the way it helps him see what God is doing in other people's lives during the service.

(And there's another benefit too: no more misplaced musings jotted down on that day's program. "With Twitter," he points out, "your notes are there forever.")
So, we might exercise caution in suggesting twittering is not compatible with a deeper spirituality.

I'll post Part 2 of "Twittering Religion in America" this week.


JVo said...

Thanks so much for reprinting this article. I'm John Voelz, the pastor in the article from Westwinds. You might be interested in reading some of the things I posted on my blog when we hosted our first Twitter Church Sunday back in June of 2008. Glad other congregations are starting to try some of the same things. TIME did a great job and they were very kind. I will subscribe to your blog. Thanks again. Here's a link

Gerardo Marti said...

Thank you, Pastor John! I appreciate you providing a link to your blog, and we'll all be interested to see how things develop.