Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church


From the Staff @ HIEC

My Digital Pew

My dear people:

This past week, it came: the flu. Like a freight train I didn’t see coming, it ran upon my tracks and derailed my plans. For an hour, I thought I’d push through, but alas, I realized there was nothing to do but call the doctor, take the Tamiflu, and get in bed.

Sunday morning, I was better but not well. So, I tuned in to Holy Innocents via our online feed, going to Facebook and clicking on the link found there. At 9:00am, I was a little late, but did join some twenty-five other people watching. Really! There’s twenty-five of us here together, watching all over Atlanta, all over the country? Immediately, I went into work mode, the trapping of being a priest. Pay attention. Take notes. See what’s not working. See how to make the experience more holy, sacred, connected to the community.

But like the reading from Jonah that morning, a reading in which God “changed his mind,” I was tuning in for a surprise.   Just like the flu which I didn’t see coming, God was getting ready to derail me, to change me.

Tuning in again at 11:15pm to watch from beginning to end, a parishioner commented via Facebook that he was thankful for the link, also attending online. Watching with him and wanting to connect, I responded that I was home with the flu in the “pew” next to him. This simple exchange revealed another parishioner in the pew with us, who responded that I would be in her Prayers of the People.

I realized that I was not watching the liturgy. I was participating in the glorification of God in the community of the faithful. No, it wasn’t the same as being there incarnate; I could never relinquish standing with my fellow brothers and sisters. But being together in that digital pew was being connected to the Body of Christ, nourishing my life. Through word and sacrament, readings, hymns, anthems, and service, I was present. I was there. More importantly, I was able to let go of the cares and occupations of this life and glorify God in his holy temple.

Smartphones, social media, and all the ways we stay connected can isolate us. Any communication tool can. So some said when the printing press made books available to the masses, when the telegraph put the Pony Express out of business, and when telephones ended conversations on the front porch.

But on Sunday, I was in the pew, I heard the Prayers of the Church, and my mind was changed.

Correction: my heart was strangely warmed.