This is Shamika Goddard. She is the person who first introduced me to the term “tech chaplain” – and she continues to be an inspiration.
Here’s Shamika talking about how her ministry emerged while at Union Theological Seminary.
I have come back to her videos and concept often as I travel in ministry among Friends. It has been my experience that we Friends often are confused about what ministry has been, and currently is – and a new emergence is even more confusing.
Yes, I know some technology “stuff”. It’s helpful and important. What makes it a ministry though (for me) is the call to connection. The ability to spread the Good News, to make the Church visible, to use these tools of technology to support a very old message – that “Christ has come to teach his people himself”. He arrived in a field with George Fox in the mid 1600s. Today, I wonder if he’d share that message on twitter (I do not wonder. You might!).
In this past year I have had the gift of travel among Friends, talking about technology and how we use it as one way to help be more faithful. I talk about websites and Facebook pages and iPhones. I THEN also inevitably end up asking the question “Now you have a website. How will you describe your faith journeys to others, in ways that issue a Holy invitation?” And we’re off to a conversation about service and faithfulness and how we seek the Divine. Hooray!
There are always more practical concerns. Those have elements of Holy nurture and the Divine as well. In a recent visit, I was asked by someone who knew me only by Quakerly reputation, “Hey, aren’t you that computer Quaker person?”. Yep. He pulled out his flip phone, and asked me about group texting. The larger story? He wanted to keep in touch more easily with his family, now that his wife had passed away. In that very gathering I had heard his wife’s memorial minute read (I had never met her). I took the opportunity to ask him about how he connected with his children, how life was going for him now, and how he was finding support from his Meeting and Quarterly Meeting. And yes, we came up with a group texting option as well – and I also noted is number so I can visit his meeting soon! Many folks already do the nurture part so well. In my own meeting just this week, we rallied to provide some meals for a Friend. I suggested a new digital system for doing so, to make things easier. Our google groups, our Facebook page, our website all supplement and support the work of nurture and pastoral care that has already been going on for years in our meeting.
I’m also led to be helpful. Everyone is in a different place. It’s hard sometimes to ask for help in a new way. Sometimes it can seem like “everyone is on the internet” and you might be the only one who doesn’t know how to work that new tech device. You are not alone. I make lots of mistakes when I experiment. Modeling how that can be okay, and even fun, is an important part of this ministry for me. I suspect I learned that best when I taught middle school music technology – so many times my students seemed to know more that me. We turned those moments into a great time of group learning for all of us. It felt risky for me, and I try to remember that feeling when I’m explaining a very new thing (or learning my own!)
Making the work of the Church visible seems an important call right now. Whether I am at a witness in person, visiting a meeting, or seeing the work of others online – sharing and creating places for conversations and information seems a helpful place.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (First Corinthians 12)
As I have traveled this year, and grown into where I sense God is calling me to be, I have been comforted by this verse. I sometimes long to be that “other” Friend who gets to be a public speaker, or do “great things” in another context. But I am given everyday in these small opportunities with Friends on the internet and in person, a chance to be taught again and again what service looks like, and how to listen and be led.
Who in your meeting carries this ministry of (digital) connection? How might you nurture it in service to the Body as a whole?