Posted by: smstrouse | July 28, 2017

Church on the Web: Innovation or Delusion?

Theology NightWe held our second “ZOOM Church” last Sunday (for background, see posts from 7/8 and 7/15). This was the second model we’ve tried in our summer experiment. Unlike the first one, which followed a liturgical form much like our usual Sunday service, this one was a discussion format. Nineteen people logged in, three of them from different parts of the country.

Anders Peterson, mission development pastor for Middle Circle, led the conversation on “Religion: Good or Bad?” After we took an on-line survey to answer that question, we began to unpack our answers. Interestingly, everyone answered that religion was good – even our “spiritual but not religious” members! But we all agreed that religion has the potential to be both good and bad – and the history to back that up. Some participants, expressing a little surprise at their own answers, wondered why, if there is value in religion, it has not been a  bigger part of their lives. 

We just barely scratched the surface of this subject and all its follow-up questions.  I know that Middle Circle plans to continue this venue on a regular basis. We’re still gathering evaluations to determine frequency, day/time, etc. It will be interesting also to see how the results compare between Middle Circle and First United. Not that First United is your typical Lutheran church, but it’s still too traditional for most Middle Circle folks. It remains to be seen which format – or some kind of combination – will appeal most to the “traditionalists.”

Response from outside the congregation are mixed. Some praise us for being innovational. Others look at me as if I’m delusional. To be honest, I don’t know if this is the wave of the future of the church. I have a lot of questions that can’t be answered until we’ve given this a good try. Right now, enthusiasm is high, but will it be sustained? How will it affect our in-person gatherings? Can we create authentic community with our far-flung members solely on the Internet? 

Next ZOOM Church is August 13 and will be a contemplative model. The final one will August 27; the format will be determined after the evaluations for the first three are in. After that, all I can say is: 4597292490

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