Not an insult, but actually the name of a seminar at last summer’s New Wine conference, examining the impact of social networking Internet websites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Whether we like it or not, the Internet and mobile phones are increasingly playing a role in how people build communities. I am on Facebook, (are you?) Along with a billion people a day, I use YouTube a fair amount (you can use if for useful things like instructions on how to service an Aga, as well as trivial stuff like how to make a rocket with Coca-cola and mints), but I draw the line at Twitter. I suppose we all have our limits!
As I write, staff at the Royal Mail have voted to strike. One of the aspects of the dispute between postal workers and management seems to me to be that the former still have a understanding of the important role they play in communities, in bringing personal communication and information to the sizeable proportion of the population who don’t use the internet, while the latter build their statistics imagining that everyone in Britain is texting and emailing all day every day.
But we are not. Even though there are all sorts of useful things to be found on the Internet (even churches), and even though I enjoy catching up with people I don’t see very often as well as those I do, through Facebook, none of these things are a sufficient substitute for real face-to-face community.
Would Jesus be on Facebook? Perhaps he would, but he’d be one of those people who don’t write much, because his message is simple, “God wants you in his community”. That’s why God didn’t show his love for us by being remote and distant, but by coming to live on earth as a man, and experiencing the joys sorrows pain and celebration of human communities.
Through the advent of Jesus into the world, the whole world was redeemed. Or to put it in the words of Gregory of Nazanius, a fourth century Christian teacher, “That which God did not assume, he did not redeem”. At the end of this month we begin our journey to Christmas in the season of Advent. Countless generations of villagers here have taken that journey; it is part of the heritage of our community. It might be happening all over the world via the Internet, but we can do it together, face-to-face, here. Do join us for our special Advent Sunday benefice service at Stebbing on November the 29th at 11am, when our preacher will be Canon Andrew Knowles, Canon theologian of Chelmsford Cathedral.
And if I do put this letter on Facebook, it won’t be until after the magazine is published!
With blessings and prayers for Remembrancetide and Advent