It began with a text I received, as many of these conversations do:
And my response:
I know I’m putting myself on blast here, but I’m willing to do it to call attention to a trap we often fall into. Not just fall–walk right in knowingly.
My first reaction when I received this text about the 2012 General Conference opening worship? I cringed. Really, I thought? Music hasn’t changed in the past 20 years? So what did I do to try and process this reaction? I tweeted this:
Lord I lift your name on high for opening worship at #GC2012 ? Really?
— Sophia Agtarap (@SophiaSPU) April 24, 2012
And that was going to be my first blog post for our PNW conference’s General Conference blog : How music in our denomination has stayed the same. Why not open with songs from Gungor or The Brilliance, or a host of others who we hear or play in our own worshiping communities? As I continued in conversation on twitter and text about how the musical choices show how our denomination is lagging in awareness of more current music trends and styles, I saw a tweet from Sean Foles, that read:
I do not envy Marcia McPhee’s job of balancing all the different worship styles represented, but she is doing wonderfully #gc2012
— Shawn Foles (@sfoles) April 24, 2012
I was convicted. In my criticizing, I didn’t stop to think that the team leading worship had been meeting for years, praying and planning for this global gathering. I didn’t think about the worship styles that were to be represented from across the connection or about how not everyone needs to know the song “Beautiful Things.”
My myopia was outed. Their worship didn’t look or sound like how I like to worship. It wasn’t ______ enough and they didn’t use _______. You know how that goes. And social media, unfortunately, has made it even easier to offer this unsolicited view of not just worship, but of all of General Conference.
Now let’s be clear: I’ll be the first to sing the praises of the ways in which twitter and facebook; blogging and video have widened the circle, flattened hierarchies and invited [and excluded] many. But it also allows us to be a little snarkier, a little more passive aggressive and maybe a little more our selves. We say things we might not be ready to say in person because we’re flinging mud across the internet and not to someone’s face. We think we’re dealing with virtual feelings and virtual people. And for some who tweet and facebook from across much farther geographic spaces than, say, Seattle to Kent, they may as well be virtual.
But I’d like to remind us of what John Wesley imparted to us: holy conferencing as a means of grace. As much as Bible reading, prayer and sacraments are means of grace, so are the ways in which we confer together to seek (and tell) truth and peace.
From what I’m seeing online–I’m not sure that’s happening as much as it should. And though I’m not there in Tampa, it seems that folks like Matt Lockett are also sensing that.
The church is no stranger to conflict. We see it in scripture and at play in our own congregations. Sometimes, we initiate it. The coming weeks are exciting, stress-inducing, anxiety-producing and joy-filled. And as decisions are being made affecting organizational restructure, guaranteed appointments, inclusion and more, there is no better time to invoke the leading of the holy spirit in our gathering and in our denomination.
The world is watching. As we use social media to participate in the conversations happening in Tampa, what will they say about us and the God we follow? Will we be a church united or untied?
Will we allow these holy and blessed conversations in person and online, to be a means of grace to all who seek it? As we continue to converse, let us be reminded of the text from Colossians 3:12-16a, 17:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
May it be so.
For more on holy conferencing: