Lovely as this is, it is not a church.
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Wikimedia)
It is a dazzling building erected for the glory of God and the edification of persons.
This is a church.
Members of the Diocese of Chicago playing with members of the Diocese of Southeast México, 2013.
You can “have church” anywhere. You can “be church” only with other people.
This, so far, is The Daily Office version of church:
Some of my favorite people: a screen grab after one of our webcasts last year. We get together online five mornings a week, plus Friday nights.
Community is everything. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together, I am in the midst of them.”
I am not the vicar of a website, or three websites, or a Facebook group. I am the Vicar of 5000 followers, most of whom do not know each other, but do know that they are part of an intentional community, and value their connection.
To remedy the fact that few of us have met, we’re holding a retreat this August in southern Indiana. But for years I have worked to bring us together in more ways – and now at last it appears my dearest dream is about to come true.
I’m so excited I could run around in circles like the Verger!
Luke resting at my knee a few days after I got him; he runs around in circles every day when he knows we’re going outside. I call him the Verger because he likes to tug on his leash and show me where to go.
To promote community – people knowing each other, sharing their lives, and working together for holy purposes – I have long wanted to develop a social network. John M. came up with the idea for us years ago, and I have struggled ever since to make it happen – made phone calls to developers and coders and marketers, written e-mails, asked for grants, raised money – all to no avail, until now.
But as of Friday, the work has begun!
Here is the person who’s finally making it happen – in one fortuitous conversation, by hooking me up with a web professional she knows.
Former journalist and television news producer Kathy Copas, Communications and Evangelism Officer of the Diocese of Indianapolis.
We met in a private chat on Friday with Tony Schlisser of Pages & PCs in Louisville, Kentucky. Tony is IndyDio’s main computer whiz, responsible for 50 or more individual websites under the diocesan umbrella, including our donation page. Lately he’s been helping me develop a new, unified “landing page” for our three Daily Office sites (Americas, Asia-Pacific and Oficio Diario in Spanish). We are the Daily Office Network now, with a logo and everything. You’ve seen our logo; I should put it on this blog too, but I only now thought of it. Our logo’s gotten rave reviews.
In the course of developing this landing page, where all our sites will converge under the dailyoffice.org roof, I happened to mention on Friday what all this is leading toward, our own social network. Somehow this was the first Tony had heard of it – though I thought surely I had mentioned it before; I’ve been talking about it so long I think everyone I know has heard of it. But he hadn’t. And then…
He solved it in five seconds!
(Cue the rat terrier turning triple axels.)
Tony knew what Kathy and I didn’t, that WordPress, our bloghost, also offers a social networking application called BuddyPress. Thus one problem that’s stymied me repeatedly – what platform to use – he solved instantly.
What’s significant is that our current blogs must integrate seamlessly with the social network, so that you can go from one to the other with a simple click without ever leaving our site.
We’re not looking to do a churchy version of Facebook here, but to use the strengths of social networking to “be” the church.
The most fun part of our Morning Prayer webcasts happens after we pray; we move into our virtual Parish Hall, where we can see everyone’s face much better, and we chatter like magpies.
We have the beginnings of a timeline now for our long-awaited site makeover and expansion. We hope to have our new landing page debut on Easter Day. It will feature much bigger, widescreen art on the title page, with 3 buttons so you can choose which site you use for prayer; maybe we’ll use that photo above from Sainte-Chapelle so you can see it in all its glory. Every day I want you to see a photo or painting that gets you in the mood to enter into God’s presence. Every day when you come I want you to say, “Yes, this is the right place.”
Shortly after Easter Padre Mickey’s Oficio Diario site will be moving to WordPress; all three sites will have new URLs (probably subdomains of dailyoffice.org), including automatic forwarding so nobody has to change their bookmarks right away. And then, later in the summer we’ll open our new social network, which I haven’t named yet.
Dana Carvey on “SNL.”
I have gotten to know hundreds of you in the ten years since I founded our first site. You are great people, incredibly engaged with Jesus Christ and working hard to bring Good News to a hurting world. It’s time you met each other.
As I said, I don’t expect our social network to replace Facebook; after all, we have 2600 members there and dozens more arriving every week. But I hope, once you look us over, you’ll also join our network and make new friends for socializing, sharing, writing, linking, laughing, weeping, praying and working. It should also be a great place to let other people know what’s going on in your parish, diocese and neighborhood that may interest them.
My greatest hope is that we will use it for mission purposes. Publicize your concert, your trip to Haiti or South Sudan, your prison ministry, your health services. Spread the Good Word!
It will be essential that our core group of 5000 decide to join and make it work. So you can expect that we’ll be promoting it heavily. Here’s why.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, just one year after we launched our Daily Office site, thousands of people died, including Vera Briones Smith. Hundreds of churches were damaged or destroyed. Whole cities were ruined. I tried to compose a prayer that could begin to express our collective grief and loss and confusion.
And because our site is oriented in part toward praying about the events of the day – not just your personal piety, like other sites – we had a huge jump in traffic. People needed to pray, because we felt so helpless.
In the days afterward, thousands of Christians and other citizens from all walks of life rushed to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help survivors rebuild their lives. Our site raised money for Episcopal Relief and Development.
And while the teevee focused so much on New Orleans, our members knew that Mississippi was devastated just as bad if not worse – because we showed pictures of churches, where the only thing left was the bell that used to hang in the steeple but then was sitting in the front yard. Ocean Springs, Pass Christian – we learned the names of these places – Pensacola, Bayou La Batre, Bay St. Louis, Metairie and more.
As recovery began, we showed that too – worship the following Sunday, with everyone gathered around the rubble and the bell.
We stayed on it for weeks, while our competition kept acting as if nothing happened. When the Bishop of Mississippi wrote a prayer, I took down mine and put up his.
Today, if we’re able to create a viable social network for Episcopalians and Friends, we’ll be much more able to respond to the next disaster.
That’s the kind of mission work I’m talking about – along with the everyday emergencies of war and peace, homelessness, hunger, ignorance, hatred, materialism, scapegoating, imprisonment, environmental degradation, racism, injustice and everything else that God abhors about human beings.
How God’s able to love us through all of this I’ll never understand. But then God is God, and I am not. Thank God!
Famine is spreading in South Sudan tonight. Episcopalians are going hungry along with 150,000 of their fellow citizens. I want us to get food to those people, along with celebrating every birth and birthday, graduation and new job, accomplishment and disappointment, illness and healing, life and death. That’s what a Christian social network can uniquely do, so that’s why I want one.
Our friend Deacon Letha used Facebook this weekend to publicize a concert at her church, Midway Baptist in Midway, Kentucky, a fundraiser for one of their frequent mission trips to Haiti. They raised $2100 while the town was covered in two feet of snow!!!
[UPDATE: Letha says that a Haitian couple, now living in Louisville, Ky., saw a notice about this concert on social media and drove 75 miles to little Midway so they could attend! A bit of virality started up, which is what social networks are so good at. That’s how the Church first got started, you know; Jesus went viral.]
It was a “Love/Haiti” thing last night at Midway Baptist Church in Kentucky. (Letha Tomes Drury on Facebook)
The thing is, it’s easy for this kind of event to get lost in the vastness of Facebook, with all its celeb news, politics, hookups, advertising, gaming and cat videos. What a person gets out of Facebook depends entirely on who their friends are – and for everyone, those friends are a diverse group. I’m tired of fighting an insatiably greedy, privacy-crushing mega-corporation over the contents of my news feed. I don’t care that you just won at Crazy Birds, bought a tractor at FarmTown or found a clue at MurderMystery. I don’t want to see racy pictures of you and the person you’re dating. I’m not going to shop at my nearest Chick Fil-A, Pizza Rot or Walmart. And if I never see another racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Obamacare, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant rant I will like that just fine!
Yes to pictures of the “grandcubs,” the books you’re reading, the songs you recommend, the food you cooked, the flowers you grew, your concert for Haiti – and double-yes to Tim’s 40-second video of one-year-old Jackson’s first steps.
Taking Jackson for a ride.
I just figure that Christians have a need to hang out with each other sometimes, even if our conversation is less than pious. And the chance to do a little good isn’t something I want to pass up.
Get this – the Diocese of Indianapolis will host our network for free. Unlimited bandwidth and storage, Tony says; just tell him what I want and he’ll try to find a way.
Kathy Copas is worth her weight in frankincense!
So watch for all these changes, and if you can spare a prayer please give us one.
Thank you, Lord, for making me a home in the Diocese of Indianapolis.
Think of this: if our new social site works for Episkies, it will work for progressive Christians of all colors.++