There is a paradox about living connected via information technology (IT) when most of my parishioners can be reached within fifteen minutes on foot. Why do I bother you might ask - and I do ask myself!
My day starts with an hour of prayer of which my iPad is servant. I play Margaret Rizza's Music into Silence on it to play me in and out of half an hour's quiet recitation of the Jesus Prayer before my Office and Intercessions sometimes enriched by a YouTube clip. Then I download my daily paper and start reading it over breakfast. Sometimes I tweet an article from it with my own commentary. Then it's to my desk and emails.
How could you run a church nowadays without email? We accomplish a lot more in terms of liturgical, fabric, financial and administrative management since the various committees can gather agendas and make more of their actual meeting through electronic conferring. There’s a down side inevitably. Email culture presses for instant resolution, emptying your inbox as often as it gets filled. What’s important, though, should be prior to what’s merely urgent. Hence an array of electronic folders where some things stay pending. So much of life, and church life, requires living with unresolved issues and tensions. My electronic and paper folders contain correspondence about a pastoral visiting scheme and a church toilet among things pending at St Giles.
Having your contacts and diary on your iPhone, iPad (or equivalent) and computer backed up on iCloud equips modern priests to be their own administrators but there’s again another side. When our deanery clergy sat down with our Bishop last month, we complained we were overmuch at our computers administering our parishes!
Most Sundays I find myself entering details of new church attenders on my iPhone as I greet them in the church porch. They receive the monthly church diary update, which is my lot to circulate. Sometimes I get concerned about a perceived control bug, though much of what I relay through that diary are happenings not of my initiating.
I've not preached from my iPad yet, seeing paper as a little more reliable, but I do tweet my sermons. It keeps me on the case in terms of simple, clear communication since the tweet is usually my sermon proposition or an intriguing quotation pointing to it. If my sermon’s all over the place I’m shy to put it on the Internet!
Facebook relays my tweets to electronic friends. Parishioners follow me on Twitter and engage with tweets about Christian discipleship, current affairs, worthwhile events and services and, occasionally, village politics. Confidentiality is foundational to pastoral ministry so my Facebook timeline is sparse and family-oriented with rare personal references even though I do lots of visiting as parish priest.
As someone who loves both people and ideas I find the Internet a good place but, like my own or the church's website, it's something of a reflection of what's more vital and real - personal presence and one to one, or as a worshipping, task-oriented or recreational community.
Lastly since my iPhone carries Scripture and the Divine Office it’s in a more profound sense my 'Sword' (Ephesians 6:17) since in many a spare or waiting moment I can let it take me to God's Word.