Friday, August 14, 2020

On-Demand Spiritual Access

For years we have been an "on-demand" culture. The concept of set days and hours for stores to be open was eclipsed by online shopping. In North Dakota physical retail could not open until noon. Legislators were afraid that no one would attend religious activities. While those beside you were singing hymns you could be placing your order online. At least you were in a church building, right? Streaming services are making "set-day set-time" network programming obsolete. I am old enough to remember my parents setting aside Saturday evening to watch Bonanza. When it moved to Sunday night so did the pattern of our family's life. They devices which make worldwide access to information and entertainment make live, in-person events less important.

A recent sample of church signboards indicate the lack of flexibility to the on-demand culture. Since COVID-19 caused in-person in-building gatherings to be suspended, a number of congregations began live streaming. Some were recorded and available online while others were set-time viewing only. Some church leaders believed that there was a set time for worship and inspiration. As more faith communities begin in-person worship the touting of "normalcy" places emphasis on live events at set days and times. Are the sanctuaries filled?  Are people cautious about gathering in groups in enclosed spaces? Are people getting what they need by viewing online? Does this "set-time set-place" continue the compartmentalizing of faith from daily activity? Do people only want or need spiritual access at certain times?
Carey Nieuwhof in an article entitled, "7 Disruptive Church Trends" lists as #7: On-Demand Access Will Eclipse Live Events. Over the years Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings were sacred days and times for Christian organizations. I grew up in, as well as worked for decades in that structure. When life (school activities, community organizations, sports, etc) began to encroach on Wednesday evenings a loud cry went up in the community. These days and times provided meaning, regularity, and mileposts for many people. However, did it serve the purpose of integrating faith and spirituality into the fabric of daily living?

As we continue to evaluate schedules, organizations, and in-person live events in light of caring for self and one another in the ongoing pandemic, I believe the on-demand integration of spirituality into daily existence will increase. This is the way it was originally intended, but perspectives change over time. The separate structures which neatly kept our lives in compartments (divided plates so the peas did not touch the gravy) are giving way to fusion (curried spaghetti and meatballs) while enhancing life and diversity. The recent coronavirus crisis did not cause this change only accelerated what was already occurring. I have been given the opportunity to sit with teenagers and adult family members in kitchen and places of work to discuss Sacred Stories intertwined with daily events. I have hiked trails and sat on camp chairs listening to and interacting with couples discussing life issues. These took place on their schedules with their particular needs and interests in mind. We could binge for a couple of days or a few weeks so that other commitments, vacations, and seasonal activities could occur without penalty for "non-attendance." This did not take away from faith integration. Instead it was a platform for blending life, spiritual enhancement, and faith.

Whether the signage catches up to the realities is not as important as being able to access the support and guidance for all of life's adventures. The training for life does not have a finish line!

I am posting video reflections on my YouTube channel every 2 weeks. These are accessible at any time. I encourage you to subscribe to those videos, as well. 


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