Creating an intimate, online faith community
On Sunday, Oct. 4, World Communion Sunday, I had the chance to engage with a small group of people in one of the most meaningful Bible conversations I have ever had.
On Sunday, Oct. 4, World Communion Sunday, I had the chance to engage with a small group of people in one of the most meaningful Bible conversations I have ever had. There were 16 of us present at our weekly Bible Study, and during our hour together, the conversation was spiritually and intellectually engaging as we asked each other questions about how the ancient scripture impacted us right where we live. As our time together drew to a close we shared prayer requests and then participated a simple celebration of Holy Communion.
What was different about this Bible Study was that our participants were from Utah, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, California and Louisiana, and when we ended our meeting, I closed my computer and prepared to go to bed.
I confess that when I began ministry as Gathering Pastor of Extravagance UCC, I was not aware that online ministry could create such a sense of intimate community as it does. Over the last couple of years, my Extravagance colleagues, our participants and I have discovered that virtual faith community is, in fact, real community, connecting people across time and space to deeply engage in faith forming experiences.
Most people who participate in online ministries would acknowledge that virtual community does not substitute for a physical gathering of community. Yet they would also say that online ministry can be a rich addition to their local faith community. Of course, for those who do not have a church, are geographically separated from a church that would welcome them, or who are not ready to “go to church” for whatever reason, an online faith community can be the church for them.
Today millions of people are online, making virtual ministry the new frontier for being the presence of God’s love and the ministry of Jesus Christ in the world. Just as the first-century church found new ways of being community to each other, as the digital world continues to evolve, we too can be people discovering ways of being the church together for people in different places and circumstances who need and want to hear the Good News of a Stillspeaking God who loves all the people.
If you are interested in learning more about online community, contact us at www.extravaganceucc.org. We would love to share the journey with you.
Sparking Ministry Conversations
How might your thinking about virtual faith community evolve in order to engage people who most need and want to learn about God and be part of a community? Do you know someone who might need or want to be part of a virtual faith community? How might you help them find a place to belong?