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The practice of patience and self-restraint: the church and social media

Digital world brings challenges to the tech-savvy and tech-averse

July 7, 2010

A man uses an iPhone

Minister Commissioner Calvin Gittner using his iPhone during the Church and Social Media gathering on Wednesday. —Photo by Tony Oltmann

MINNEAPOLIS

In the middle of all the weighty business of the General Assembly, a group of those interested in the web of issues related to being the church in the digital age gathered with Jann Cather Weaver, associate professor of worship and theology and the arts at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

“What we need most is a hermeneutic — a practice — of love, gentleness, kindness and self-control,” Weaver said. “This is what we need so we don’t flash back when we get flamed on Facebook.”

Living in the digital age, she said, means cultivating the art of “both/and.”

“Some of the most technology-connected people alive need to disconnect from their devices to know that God is God. Others can’t feel connected without being part of the social network stream.” The key is to exercise tolerance with each other.

Patience is even more needed as congregations begin to make the shift in the digital age. “This is really where we need the both/and,” asserted Weaver. “Maybe if you’re sending the news out by email on Thursday, you need to send it (earlier) to the print people on Monday, so they all get it at the same time.”

All present acknowledged that the emerging digital world brings complexity for standards and best practices, from the blessings and perils of Facebook and other networking media, to being attentive to the different ways generations connect and learn.