"How do you know all these people?" exclaimed a friend last night, when I stopped by her house to wish her a happy birthday. "You had a rabbi from St. Louis and a photographer from Philadelphia at your ordination - how did that happen?"
A couple of years ago one of my seminary professors expressed great skepticism about internet interactions and friendships.
Let's see . . .
Carol isn't a rabbi, but she is a dear friend (unmet in real life until last Sunday!) as a consequence of fifteen years of emailing among a group of moms who met online. Carol and I have enjoyed numerous discussions about Jewish-Christian matters over the years and she has been a rock in my life since Josh died. Of course I wanted her to read Psalm 139, and to read at least the first few lines in Hebrew.
Michelle isn't a professional photographer, but she's a contemplative one, as well as a chemistry professor and essayist on the spiritual life. We met online through our mutual passion for blogging and Ignatian spirituality, and we've met at Wernersville, a place of silence and prayer to which Michelle heads frequently and I, once a year. We blogged our way through Into the Silent Land Together (see top of page), and we've shared many conversations, both intense and humorous.
Another online and now in-person friend who appeared is Chris. We met because an article appeared in the local paper a few weeks after Josh died, a year after her daughter died in Italy. We've walked along Lake Erie together and we've shared many challenging and loving conversations with two other heartbroken mothers, all of whom met through our blogs andall of whom eventually spent months in an online retreat together, reading and writing about a Joyce Rupp bookr.
I'm realizing as I report on these friendships that perhaps they are not so much online friendships as writing friendships. Carol mentioned that many of her friends at home expressed skepticism about her trip out here; many of my friends also roll their eyes at the mention of internet relationships.
But the reality is that years of shared correspondence ~ whether high tech or via the old quill-and-ink method ~ produce deep reflection, intimate sharing, and lasting friendship.
The image is Michelle's ~ My First Celebration of Communion.