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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Rise of the Twittering Church-Goers

Warrenton-Baptist-Church-1-[Credit---Peyton-Knight]-728499.pngI knew Twitter had hit mainstream when I was Twittering about speaking in Church awhile back, and the CIO of a major Church organization Twitter'd me back, wishing me luck, while he himself was in church. Both he and I some times Twitter about the current sermon or teaching going on in our individual congregations and more - it's quite frankly, an excellent tool to share with others of like beliefs and even outside your faith inspiring things you may learn. I've seen this from others as well, across boundaries of many different faiths - it's a very common thing to see on Sundays on Twitter and FriendFeed. On Sundays, Twitter often becomes, "Church Day", at least amongst many of my friends of different Faiths on Twitter.

Many people may gasp at this idea, saying, "What? You use your cell phone to Twitter in Church?", but I'm not so sure it could be such a bad thing for the reasons I mention above. True, some times it is easy to get distracted, check e-mail, or FriendFeed, or other things going on and that takes some control. I also have to remember to turn off the sound on my wife's cell phone so if/when I Twitter her phone doesn't go off in the middle of sacrament/communion because she receives my Twitters on her cellphone (true story!). I do find it an easy way to study the scriptures in church without having to bring a whole book with me. With the iPhone's new 3G speeds it's also a great tool to be able to cross-reference and research the topics I'm learning - I'm a stickler for ensuring only the facts are being learned!

However, as I said, without restraint, my cellphone can be a distraction. Not only that, but the mere appearance of me constantly on it can bring an irreverance to the service that perhaps shouldn't be there. I still can't help wonder if it may be better just to leave the phone at home. To figure this out, I asked my friends on Twitter and FriendFeed how they use their cellphones in Church. I got a variety of great responses:

jtzemp - I work with the youth, and so I don't believe in setting a double standard. If they can't use them to be checking sports scores, texting friends, etc. than I'm not going to either. I have five rules: 1.) It's OK in emergencies 2.) If it is being used to enhance the experience we're all sharing, it's ok. (calling people to get them to activities, finding out if someone is up for a visit, etc). It's not ok to isolate yourself from people present to have conversations with people who aren't present. The people you are with right now are the most important people to you right now. 3.) Following up on assignments is OK. I participate in a lot of meetings, and I do text people to remind them of, and follow up on completion of assignments. 4.) It's _not_ ok in very sacred settings. It takes your mind off the spiritual experience and leaves you spiritually distracted. 5.) If you use your PDA/iPhone to store scriptures/notes/etc. It is ok to use it for that purpose only in appropriate settings. My $0.02.

LdsNana-AskMormon - Calender items, notes and on occasion accessing the scriptures via the Internet..... but NEVER texting.

Justin Hileman - i think appropriate use of technology can be beneficial... i'm far more likely to remain engaged when i'm looking up supplementary material or cross-referencing scripture. with a phone/pocket pc/iPhone i can look up that quote that i can almost remember, i can jot down notes so i'll remember later. and i'm far less likely to carry a pad of paper to church with me.

Louis Gray - I used to bring the Treo, to have the standard works, hymns, lessons on. Now, I leave all the gadgets at home. You know I'd be Friendfeeding during communion and on Fast Sunday.

Ontario Emperor - If I am alone at church, I will occasionally tweet and/or friendfeed the highlights from the sermon. http://friendfeed.com/e/17edcd...

LGR - Occasionally, if I have the kids on my own in the parents room I will check email, and do some RSS reading while I am watching the kids. I can't hear the sermon in the parents room unfortunately so I play with the kids and check things on my cell.

James Hull - Never. In the past I have used it to save notes or ideas that may pop into my head, but lately I turn the thing off on the way in and back on on the way out.

the JoshMeister - I like jtzemp's comments. I carry 3 phone/PDA-type devices with me (yes, I know it sounds silly, but there's a reason for each device). I use my personal PDA (not a phone) for notes, scriptures, lesson manuals, hymns, and my calendar. I use my Treo (my work PDA-phone which is Internet-enabled but not calling-enabled) to look up talks on lds.org during meetings when appropriate e.g. if a particular talk is the main focus of a lesson, and also for typing notes during General/Stake Conference...

...And finally, I use my personal cell phone only before/after church, or to add a church member's phone number.

Harvey Simmons - This will probably blur the definition of "in church," but I'm on the AV team, so we send texts from the sound board to the video room all the time. We just turn our ringers off. At the same time, we occasionally remind people that they could be on camera at any time, so they shouldn't text or talk on cellphones during service. Last week, the Assistant Pastor's phone rang during communion service. It was hilarious.

James Andrews - My church is wireless and I love looking up scripture in service, though my wife says it looks like i'm checking my email. My pastor is pretty progressive and I am sure knows what Im doing

klecu - I quite often use my pocket PC in church...to read the Bible of course

Jeff P. Henderson - Maybe there is an online church you could join. Then it would be totally appropriate to use your iPhone there ;-)

Akula - I occasionally check email although I shouldn't. If I had an iPhone I'd probably use it too much at church.

This Twitter and FriendFeed Phenomena is still quite new. I'm sure as it pans out we'll see more and better uses for it in Church. In the meantime I'm going to watch it with a close eye and see if I can figure out a middle-ground that keeps the sacredness of Church and still adds to it through use of new technology. With the new iPhone App store it could actually be quite interesting to see if any "Church-apps" come to fruition as more people use it. I'm a believer, that's for sure!

We're still discussing this on FriendFeed - you can keep contributing to the conversation here.

Photo Credit Peyton Knight

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