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Text Support

One of the things I didn’t learn in seminary was how to exercise ministry in 140 characters. I’m referring, of course, to texting. It’s become rather ubiquitous in our culture to simply send short messages to one another via our mobile phones.

My mobile is what I call a “dumb phone.” Not because I get frustrated by the technology, but it is NOT a ‘smart phone.’ It’s a basic phone. T9 texting, 140 character maximum, no camera or MP3, no touch screen. Just a phone. And it serves its purpose as such. I can talk, and I can text. And that’s enough.

I use the phone to connect with people for a number of things. I have a (long distance) sports buddy; we share scores when one or the other cannot be watching the game, we banter quite a bit back and forth when we can. It’s not as good as in person, but it’s better than nothing. I have a fitness buddy; we text in the morning with an attempt at motivating one another to do some exercise. I have a friend who texts when we’re trying to set up a mutually convenient time for a video chat. I have an overseas friend (who is terrible at time zones) who texts after learning that the growling on the phone was not a pet dinosaur but me at 4am. I can let friends know that my plane has landed safely or that I’ve been delayed by customs. It’s handy (as the Germans say).

Ministry also happens quite a bit on that tiny piece of tech. Parts of the parish I serve are long distance, all of my colleagues are long distance, and texting is cheaper than phoning. It’s a way to connect with people in a relatively quick way, without demanding their immediate attention. It’s a way of communicating that can be easily ignored when busy with other parts of ministry.

I get prayer requests by text, and can send out a quick affirmation of my response. I send out brief notes of encouragement to people without interfering with their work. I set appointments with folks, I confirm details of upcoming events, I inform people if I’m running late. I’ve received texts of support from colleagues on difficult days, I’ve learned positive outcomes from medical procedures, I’ve had visit requests from care home staff.

I do not think that technology is ever going to take over pastoral ministry, but I do find that some pieces of technology are beneficial to exercising that ministry. I find that the phone is not a means of doing my job, but a tool that enables me to try and do my job more efficiently. I believe that phones have a time and place for use; we don’t need to have them with us and turned on all the time. I treat the phone as being there for my benefit, not the other way around – I will not interrupt a pastoral visit to answer a text, for example – the in-person always wins. But the phone is there – and it provides support both for me to receive and for me to extend. And I don’t expect that will change any time soon.

Do you find mobiles a help or a hindrance in your work and ministry? Is there other technology that you cannot do your job without?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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One Response to Text Support

  1. I love gear. My first love is outdoors gear, but a very close second is my love for tech gear–specifically, Apple products. Part of that love is learning how to best use the tremendous power I have in my pocket or my backpack (think Spiderman…”with great power, comes great responsibility.”

    A large percentage of my professional work is done as a communications and outreach coordinator for environmental and social justice organizations. The other half is focused on children and youth work; namely, leadership and educational workshops. Although very different domains, both share a common dependency on tech/online communication tools.

    Every major brand, organization, and individual is linked in online. Your digital footprint is used to judge your candidacy for employment (for good or bad) and can be a major influence on how you are perceived by your peers. I think social media is a tremendous tool for communication, but it is not for everyone. I am, however, intrigued by the use of social media in liturgical contexts; notably, tweetups.

    Tweetups occur when a group of individuals are tweeting, from their personal Twitter accounts, as a sermon is going on in their church. The tweets all include a common hashtag, e.g. #colwoodanglican, which groups all the similar tweets together. As the tweets are sent, they are projected on the wall of the parish. I think the Tweetup provides an interesting way to both engage our existing parishioners and with new individuals and/or communities. An interesting article about Tweetups can be found here.

    I will freely admit I have never participated in a church-based Tweetup, but I think it presents a tremendous new form of engagement and way to share our thoughts about a sermon.

    Does anyone have any experience with tweeting during church?

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