Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Communication (Conundrums of Ministry III)

Internet technology ranked high among the reasons I was willing to undertake a pastoral call far from home.  Website, email, virtual meetings ~ how hard could it be?  I am in regular communication with people in their seventies and eighties via email, and the blogs I read are written by people of all ages ~ all possible decades from college onward.  Well, I'm not sure that I read any blogs written by people past ninety.  But emails, for sure.

I expected to be around, of course.  But I thought that technology would fill the gaps.

But I find myself in a place where many people don't even own computers, and many of those who do don't use email.  Several either don't have voice mail, or don't make use of what they do have.  And age clearly is not the issue.  It's all about outlook.

When I mention how much easier it is to schedule a meeting online, whether through email or various internet tools, people look at me as if I'm nuts.  All those phone calls to schedule and reschedule events, the multiple efforts needed to reach and re-reach folks as we try to pull everyone together?  No problem.  

I am learning that it's all about pace and relationships ~ a different pace and a different mode of relating.  People aren't bothered by phone calls; they view them as welcome opportunities to connect rather than as untimely interruptions. I'm revamping the church website ~ but no one really cares.  Who would look at it?

This morning I mentioned (via phone) to a committee chair that we need to meet to complete some paperwork for the Methodist Church.  She said that she was awaiting the arrival of the packet of forms.  "Uh, I don't think there will be a packet," I said.  "They're all online."  (I did then call the district office and confirmed: they have no plans to mail out hard copies.)

It's difficult to know what to do.  In some ways, I want to accept the pace and expectations of where I am, and learn to enjoy the absence of the internet.  In others, I want to nudge my folks along, knowing that it will become increasingly more difficult for them to maintain their connections with others, both official and unofficial, without at least some technological competency.

Several times a day, I hear the clip-clop of Amish horses pulling buggies on the highway that runs through town.  They do give me pause.

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