At the parish where I am priest in charge, we follow a hybrid approach. About 40-50 of us gather in person on Sunday, and others take part via Facebook Live and YouTube, with the numbers of views hovering around 65 to 100 every week. It's small potatoes, yeah, but it is now at the heart of how this community functions.
My experience as a Christian communicator, parish priest, and hospital chaplain informs my belief that this technological shift is not only long overdue but is consistent with the practice and ministry of the Church since the beginning of the Christian era. Furthermore, just as we cannot dispense with books, musical instruments, or writing, we cannot simply dispense with technology simply because it has limits, temptations, distractions, or challenges. Tech changes Christian community... and gives us tools to communicate the Gospel! This isn't to say it's either automatic or easy.
Personally, I don't think we can put this genie back in the bottle. Even if the pandemic should magically end tomorrow, we have been habituated to a new way of interacting that is here to stay. We must find ways to embody Christian community and communicate the Gospel in the ways the culture understands.
In light of that, I am posting here the letter that I wrote to Pastor Harrison Warren in response to her piece (which is exists behind the NYT paywall) that I forwarded through the portal at the NYTimes website where her essay appeared. Since comments were not open on the column itself, I chose to write her through that portal. I await her reply.
(An earlier version of what follows also appeared in the Facebook site of "The Episcopal Café," where I was a once a regular columnist and an editor.)
Dear Pastor Harrison Warren,