August 5th, 2010 – by Laura Lehman Amstutz, Editors Blog
Facebook isn’t a substitute for real community. It is a reminder than I have real community. It just looks different than community did 40 years ago.
I was at a wedding last weekend. I imagine that when my grandparents and their peers got married,most of the people who gathered to witness the union and support the couple lived in the same physical location as the couple.
The four of us who gathered to help my friend get ready for her wedding, came from four different states. None of us live in the same town as the bride and groom. It caused me to ask, “How will I support the bride and groom in their marriage when I live 400 miles away?” I still think I can.
I once got into a minor argument with Shane Hipps about this. In his book, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, he seemed to suggest that you can’t have real community in virtual space. I disagree. Electronic communication helps me feel more connected to a wider range of my peers. I “speak” with one particular close friend nearly every day via instant message. She lives several hundred miles away.
In the midst of a crisis, I have friends I can go to in Harrisonburg where I live, but I also have friends I can email who will respond with just the right words. There are people who love me and know me well, who just happen to live in different states. That doesn’t mean they’re not part of my community.
These musings on community have made me wonder a bit about intentionality. What really makes a community these days is our intentionality in creating it. When our communities were people who lived next door, they could more or less see what was going on in our lives. When our communities are made up of people all over the world, the only way they’ll “see” what’s going on in our lives is if we are intentional about it.
This concept of community applies to church. Our churches are also scattered and disjointed, at least during the week. How are we intentional about creating community during the week? Do we meet in person? Do we email each other? Do we read each other’s blog? Are we Facebook friends? What keeps us connected to each other? I don’t think it’s an accident that many of us are seeking “intentional communities.” Today community can only be intentional.
I don’t think this applies only to the local church. As the local church shifts and changes, how can the wider church be intentional about creating community among its members and member churches? Remembering that we really are a community seems to be the challenge denominationally these days. We can’t count on our face-to-face gatherings to create that community for us. Could we learn something from Facebook about remembering our community and staying connected to it, even if it’s scattered? What do you think?
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