I usually work alone. Most days, I sit in my office working on projects that almost always require some collaboration or input with others — and I do this with nobody else in the room. When we have meetings, we often do them with video conferencing software. If I need to reach out to someone or respond to a question, I can simply send an email, even when the person is a colleague 3 floors above me.
But often, I choose to walk to their office to talk with them.
This may seem to some like I am inconveniencing my colleagues who have their own work to perform. But I find that face to face communication can save time and improve the clarity of a discussion.
There are thousands of articles online extolling the importance of face to face interactions between people. In the work place, between friends, within families, in literally every relationship imaginable, research shows that face to face interaction has benefits that cannot be reproduced through social media, email, texting, even phone or video conferencing.
Professor Robin Dunbar, Emeritus Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University and author of dozens of articles on social networks and bonding, writes, “There is something paramount about face-to-face interactions that is crucial for maintaining friendships. Seeing the white of their eyes from time to time seems to be crucial to the way we maintain friendships.”
The same concept can apply to the relationships cultivated in faith communities. Years ago I was a Christian Education Director and felt very involved in the life of my home church. After leaving that role, I was only marginally involved in the life of my church. Even when I was attending worship most Sundays of the week, I began to feel disconnected. With that disconnect came a growing sense of indifference as well.
This past year, I volunteered to be the scribe for the church council meetings and the chair of a special team exploring future options. With no less than 2 in-person meetings per month with six or more people from the church, I find that I am more informed, far more invested, and ultimately care more about my church than I have in years.
As an editor, I write and edit stories for release on the Conference Website. I also edit and publish weekly devotionals and blogs from clergy and staff. I share stories. But I don’t often get a chance to verbally tell stories about the impacts that local church ministries are having on the lives of those around them. When I do, it is usually with one or two individuals who can sense more than just the words of the story. They can feel the excitement in my voice, or ask clarifying questions. I can respond differently as well because there is a communication loop that includes not just the story, but the human reactions to the story, the facial expressions, the vocal inflections, the face-to-face-ness of it all.
And yes, I do understand the irony of writing this particular message.
So I wonder… aside from pastors telling stories in sermons to people gathered in pews, where are we, as United Church of Christ disciples with a compelling story about the love and justice of Jesus, getting a chance to tell our story?
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