I met my pastor on Facebook

Posted Jun 17, 2011 | New Media Project

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By Monica A. Coleman


I met my pastor on Facebook.

I hate to admit that because I’m one of those people who only “friends” people who are actually my friends. I don’t care if we know 42 of the same people. If I don’t know you, we aren’t friends. We aren’t even associates. Not until we meet. Then (assuming we like each other enough) we can be “friends” on Facebook.

After all, do you need know how I’m feeling, what I just read or see pictures of my family if we don’t even know each other?! There has to be a line.

So I broke my own rule when I accepted a friend request from someone I didn’t know—even though we had over 50 Facebook friends in common. I knew that he pastored the church where one of my students interned. I told myself that such a connection meant I was only bending the rule.

He posted provocative questions about possible sermon topics for the week, biblical interpretation, religion and politics, sexuality and the church. I kept my theologian hat on by making comments on historical context, hermeneutics and doctrinal precedent. But one day he posted a question, I gave an academic answer, and then I reached out with a personal message: “But what do you think?”

Before I knew it, we were meeting, laughing, and realizing that we had been circling the same people and places for 15 years.  How have we not met until now?

Being new to the city and in need of a church home, I planned my first trip to the church—my first of many.

I had to admit it: I met my pastor—and found my church—on FB.

Something about this embarrasses me. It all seems much more nouveau and postmodern than I like to think of myself. After all, I’m a little old-school with my worship: I like spirituals, hymns and liturgies. I like to kneel at the altar rail and see the usher’s strut down the aisle at the end of the offering period. I like to see old folk in the front row and babies sleeping on adult laps. I want kids in new knee pants, bow ties, bonnets and Mary Jane shoes stumbling through Easter speeches.

Then I had to ask myself: how else does one find a new church in a new city? Looking in the phone book … er, I mean Google … for the closest church in one’s denomination? Looking for the place within walking distance of one’s home? Asking friends for recommendations? Do you know a church near me that…?

Oh wait, this is what happened on Facebook! In ways I didn’t even perceive, I found a church in my home tradition, got positive references from friends, and visited Bible study—all on FB! I still need to show up in some concrete place—see people in the flesh, give and receive hugs, taste the flat wafer. But social media helped me find the right place to do that.

Monica A. Coleman, a research fellow for the New Media Project, serves as Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University in southern California.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

2 Comments

  1. 1 Paul Steinbrueck 31 Jan
    Hi Monica, I love this post! I know a lot of people don't believe a person can have a "real" relationship with someone they've never met face to face. And a lot of others who didn't believe it was true... until it happened to them. Thanks for sharing this story.
  2. 2 thebrutalseminarian 31 Jan
    Monica, here's some information on another new.media.event planned at Union this fall:

    thebrutalseminarian mixed media/slam poetry/concert event: October 27, 2011 @ 8 PM, Union Theological Seminary, James Chapel, Open to All!
    thebrutalseminarian mixed media/slam poetry/concert event: October 27, 2011 @ 8 PM, Union Theological Seminary, James Chapel, Open to All!

    We're off and running on this incredible event, putting together a team of talented and dedicated seminarians and friends to present alternative forms of expression and worship. This event will have three discrete parts all connected by a common theme: a movie collage produced in-house, and slam poetry battle, and a live rock concert. Each call for audience participation in unexpected ways, although for those who follow this blog, more will be revealed.

    The overarching purpose of this event is to honor art and worship forms that create moments of common bond and trust through brutal honesty; ones that strive to break down the walls that prevent us from revealing who we truly are, what we truly fear, and from being the best versions of ourselves. By addressing these matters head-on in community, we can start to understand what issues are waiting outside these walls once we have left the safety of community. That there is no substitute for experience, so experience we must. And how in our quest to forgive and seek forgiveness in an unforgiving world, we must start by forgiving ourselves.

    We will need help to get this event of the ground, and would appreciate and and all volunteers as soon as possible. We need help in technology (there are vital computer/audio-visual components), digital movie production, communications, rock & roll band members, and we will need a lot of slam poetry entrants from the community.

    Yourstruly has been working on theme topics for the event, but the whole purpose for this blog is for this to be an interactive experience. So we can use two topics to hold in tension, for the movie, poetry battle and the band selections. The power is in your hands!

    Lot's more to come. gratefully, thebrutalseminarian

    more info at: http://brutalseminarian.blogspot.com/

    thanks for spreading the word. tbs.

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