We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eight-Bit Church

FPC, Lowville, from Google Maps
Google Maps recently introduced a feature that turns maps and photos into 8-bit images.  On the left is the image of First Presbyterian Church, Lowville, taken from the Google Map's street view looking up North State Street from just below the church building.  Those who know the view recognize it, but this image is unlike any other they would have seen of one of the most photographed buildings in Lewis County, New York.

The image is a metaphor, a powerful one.  It is not clear where it will lead or what it will look like, but if churches like FPC, Lowville, are going to have a meaningful presence in the rest of the 21st century, they need to become virtual, 8-bit churches living in a digital universe.  Every generation of the followers of Christ is called upon to reinvent the Christian faith and the church, but not since ancient times has that task been so challenging, so daunting, and so potentially exciting.

The thing is not that many churches, as a percentage of the whole, seem to be taking on the challenge or even thinking about it.  Most continue to do things mostly as they have done them for many decades.  When I was searching for a new congregation a couple of years ago, one search committee that I interviewed with was most concerned about whether or not I would wear robes in the pulpit and why I don't use the lectionary.  It was a typical mainline church, that is declining in attendance, giving, and vitality—and clearly not a church prepared to live in the digital age.