Before I even get to talking about the sessions, one interesting point to discuss about the Christian New Media conference is that they actively encouraged people to tweet about the sessions and the conference.
This seemed pretty successful such that people unable to attend the conference could keep up with what was going on. Indeed given that they were using Twitterfall to show the traffic this produced a couple of amusing moments such as the point they switched the feed to the big screen just as Mum tweeted that she was going back to doing the ironing tagged with #CNNAC11!
However the encouragement to tweet was backed up with some grumbling from people about it being frowned upon tweeting in church – the implication being that it was fuddy-duddy type attitudes to object. But is it?
It’s useful to just revisit some of the reasons churches object to tech – the most common restrictions being please turn off your phone and please don’t take pictures during the service. Both have come about from experience, for example I can think of a number of occasions where times of silence and prayer have been interrupted by a mobile phone (on at least one occasion owned by the priest) and certainly several weddings that have ended up like paparazzi photo sessions with all the flash photography. From there we got to asking people to silence their phones and not use flash, but it was pretty quickly realised that many people struggle to understand their gadgets such that they don’t know how to silence them or disable the automatic flash. As a result it’s now all phones off and no photography at all.
I’d suggest that most techies can manage to enable silent mode and disable the flash – however given that we can do that should we then be live tweeting the sermon?
To be honest I’d say no. Part of the point of a service is to provide a separate space, away from the world outside to focus on the spiritual. Certainly you may consider outside through the sermon, or the prayers, but ultimately most people there are focusing on God. As was highlighted by some of the speakers the idea of a sabbath time away from work applies just as much as a time away from the noise of the online world.
As people who experience Taizé for the first time discover, silence is a very powerful way to focus, and it is something that is little used in many services, let alone in the Christian world online.