Nel Shallow is a Methodist Minister, based in the East Midlands. She has shifted over to digital ministry in her own imaginitive and creative way and established a facebook group celebrating all things creative and worshipful. Here Nel reflects on her climb up Digital Mountain!
There is no comfort zone. I am not outside of my comfort zone. Any such zone has ceased to exist.
The announcement to close our rural chapels felt sudden and abrupt. I wonder how differently we would have gathered for our services on Sunday 15th March had we known all that would unfold in the next few days? Except we didn’t know. And suddenly some of us, as ministers, find ourselves on an on-line learning curve which felt, and feels, like a mountain to climb.
On this steep mountainside I have found digital rocks & gullies.
I have surely slipped on a few slippery broadcasting rocks as I’ve stumbled my way through FaceBook Live: finding the right volume, the correct camera angle, the best lighting. Tripping up over some simple and basic know-how’s such as remembering to look into the lens and not my own eyes. And where on earth do you put your notes in order to maintain a reasonable amount of eye contact? (in the end I sellotaped typed paper sheets to a chair just behind the camera lens; a very makeshift autocue!)
And I have fallen into a few gullies too, despite my carefulness, requiring me to climb back up again retracing my steps over old ground, except only a few days ago this was very much new ground. Who knew the camera angle changes slightly when you go Live to include the drying washing you’d positioned so carefully out of range, or so you thought!
The sense of being unexpectedly teleported from the pulpit to the screen is acutely startling, whether that be communicating by daily email with our chapel folk rather than in person or the face-to-face contact with my own videoing self instead of looking into the eyes of another. There is a sense of bewildered loss. There are people I miss and people who are missing from our being on-line. The Body is not whole.
However there is also much beauty on my steep learning curve mountain with new breathtaking views which would have remained unseen without this crisis.
The renewed and renewing sense of connectedness through our on-line gatherings is immense. Is it my imagination, a mirage mountain view, or do people share more deeply by email, text and comment? I believe we do. I have received far more open and unguarded responses from our chapel folk, and others, in these days then would usually be so. How will we carry this deeper-ness into our re-emerged gatherings?
The collective nature of our on-line community is wonderful. As a Methodist I am so delighted & encouraged by the very real sense of our being a Priesthood of All believers. I may enable and curate our collectiveness but each person contributes to the whole. This is an answer to prayer. A prayer often offered in a building based church. Once again, how can we keep hold of this treasure when we return to our pews & walls?
And I have fallen in love with the Agape meal once again. This open, inclusive, shared, storied time of fellowship is an on-line gift.
The uphill journey is undoubtedly huge, both exhausting and exhilarating. As with any good mountain climb I am too hot & uncomfortably sweaty after every on-line video! However the excitement soon returns and I want to climb higher. And even though I am the most novice of novices I cannot now imagine not being on this steep mountain. It makes me red in the face, physically and emotionally, but I love the reviving sense I gain from climbing this learning curve. How will I continue to hike when I return to the lectern.
I wonder too how many more twists and turns there will be on this mountain path as we journey on together in these days?