As I prepared the Morning Prayer for yesterday’s MediaLit Conference I immediately decided to use the Northumbria Community’s liturgy. I was struck by the dilemma I faced; do I use the readings and meditations set down for the Community or do I choose ones that would lead people to reflect on our unique setting of the Conference? I thought about what readings would be appropriate and then it struck me. The monastic life is a reflection on social media, connectedness, communication and shared ethereal life which is not based on geographic location.
I chose to use the readings of the community and asked the gathered group, in the geographical location of that chapel, to hold in their minds that there are people across the country sitting in different places sharing our prayers and engaging with the same Scripture. This community (local) was being connected to a community (wider) through the means of a ‘media’; prayer.
What a lot of questions are rushing into my mind as I write that! Is it prayer or shared life, shared intentions, shared focus? ‘Shared’… Community is about gathering around that which is common to those people; the shared. Is this inclusive or exclusive? Probably both!
The internet and all forms of social media and broadcast media are open shared space. Anyone can access it (if they have the portal and desire to) it becomes impossible to police and to articulate the commonality. Can the internet hold a common principle? Is the internet community if there is not a commonality apart from the inhabitation of the same space?
But before we continue down this argument to end on the great proclamation that the internet is not ‘community’ let’s ask the question; Does shared prayers mean ‘shared’? or to put it another way; Can prayers ever be shared?
The Northumbria Community is a disparate community joined together by the Rule of life and the liturgical rhythm of prayer. The Rule of life consists of principles not prescriptive but more like a lens through which can guide you to ethical and relational decisions. The nature of the Rule, based around questions, allows for multiplicity of thought and articulation but the commitment to shared approaches and intention.
I wonder if we could discover something of the same within the internet.
The Early Church was made up of many expressions of faith connected by many things; apostles’ teachings, written communications through communication routes and a shared intention and approach to life. What is our ‘teaching’? How do we use communication routes to connect? and do we have shared intention and approach? And, I guess the caveat question is, do we need any of these?
We finished that same day with a prayer activity where we linked our prayers together visually with the use of wool. One person would say a prayer and throw the ball of wool to another. This created a web of the wool. Again the questions come; did I share all the prayers? Was that the point? What do we mean when we talk about being connected in prayer?
After all this I can be assured that the same problems surrounded the monastic life and the Early Church that face us now in how we connect whilst not sharing geographical location.