In my daily life, I see how reliant my family is to technology. These days, my son takes all his courses from his local college via zoom. My daughter is in school every other day, and on days she is home, she has classes via zoo. When I need to communicate with my kids, it is via a text message. They are less likely to respond to my voice call but will answer my text. Go figure!
Covid -19 pandemic has basically forced a pendulum shift in how we go about our daily lives. Depending on the type of employment, many now work from home. I am one of them. Not only do I work online, but staff meetings as well as parent meetings are also online. In fact, in the last annual parent/teacher meeting I attended, I noticed much more participation. Why? Both teachers and parents had the ease of tuning in during a peak time from home. They were able to participate and follow along while continue to do family chores at home (cooking, eating dinner, etc.).
The physical and restrictions imposed on our churches should not be a negative experience. In fact, it has forced many who have not used online platforms in the past, to scramble and build from the ground up a system by which to not only share the world of God, but to maintain important and valued programs for children, youths, adults, families, and the elderly. Going back to a grassroot level and reaching out to volunteers from the community to help with unfamiliar technology has been a challenge for all. In fact, I feel that going back to basics is an important process in identifying what is most relevant and lets us shed away the irrelevant. I genuinely believe the hand of God is upon us. He is guiding us to adapt, and as we (Catholics and the Church) maneuver, explore, and use the technology available for outreach. I personally do not think we will return to the old guard of the physical – that is going to the actual physical environment. If we do, it will be a novelty and on special occasion, but rather it will be a “hybrid” Pastoral approach.
All churches now must adapt to the reality of a blending of both the physical and digital means by which to spread the Gospel, teach, communicate with not only their parish, but to those around the world. Many who did not use YouTube or online platforms to preach, have had to adapt very quickly and explore the platforms available by which to do this.
I make this conjecture out of the experiences with my own children. I recall every all the effort and activities my husband and I have done as our children were growing up to introduce our children to a variety of experiences. One of them was the ambience of live concerts, music festivals, museums, art and cultural events. I recall one such evening at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Not only was it jam packed with people, but there was a lot of security and checkpoints to ensure the weeklong event went smoothly. My son asked us, “Why do we need to be here, when I can watch a live stream of this on YouTube?” “Phew!”, I thought. What viable answer to I have for him? Many wise words flashed through my mind before I answered him. “When you watch shows streamed on YouTube, you are missing out on the ambient feel and energy of the crowd”, all the while hoping my answer makes sense. Well, to my chagrin, my son informs me he will rather watch it in the comfort of home (his room) than amidst a crowd, to which his sister nodded in agreement. Sheesh! I recall looking into the night sky and asking God, “Really?” “Is this what’s become of our generation?”
This is the reality of our lives today. Many churches and religious organizations have come to this realization, especially considering how dependent we have become of our digital world of social media, or our online discourse and reliance on it for communication. Many have jumped on the online band wagon. Church at home seems to be the mantra these days. It is the realization that to reach out and spread the Gospel, they need to do so by reaching out on a social platforms. It is also the realization that our devices/online is a reality of our modern world – especially in the mist of a pandemic, government lockdowns and restrictions.
We live in a hybrid world – a fusion of the physical and the digital. Covid – 19 pandemic only accelerated this process into our daily lives. The social stage of it was already set when this technology was developed and infiltrated into our homes via our reliance on our devices.
My daughter participates in Teen Alpha offered by our local parish. It is zoomed weekly, and I am thankful for this forum is available for our youths. As with most teens of her generation, they are at ease using the internet and social platforms to communicate. It is actually easier for a generation that grew up along side YouTube, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram to adapt to using Zoom or a hybrid that consists of online and real-life vehicles to learn.
My son and I participate in our local Alpha group also via zoom. I also participate in many online zoom groups. One group I look forward to weekly is examining the work of St. Thomas Aquinas – The Bread of Life. Zoom meetings like these gives me and others the opportunity to delve deeper into my/our faith. Just as there are online zoom meets for the rosary, and weekly meeting for Bible studies, etc.
Yes, our lives are changed forever.
The Hybrid Pastoral Approach the embraces and fuses both the physical and online realities that exists in our world today. Physical and online realities are here to stay. It can only be perfected. Hence, our Church leaders only need to fine tune the process, by adapting online technology and its various platforms to build, create and expand the physical space of the church into the home of every parish member and beyond its boundaries. The goals are not only to welcome every participant, but to invite new participants. It’s incentive is to create a Christ centered community that embraces one another with love. Another is to enable each to feel comfortable and safe in celebrating the daily Holy Sacraments, in celebrating our faith, and in developing our faith. It is reaching out and embracing all our young, teens, adults, families, and our elderly in a technology like zoom to bring us all together as one body under God.
On a personal level, I believe it is by the grace and mercy of Jesus, that we embrace the new technology in our political, social, cultural and post pandemic reality. The goal is to sustain the church, as well as secure and revive the foundations of Catholicism, and, to spread the word of God into every home. The empty churches we felt before the pandemic will only magnify post pandemic. The hybrid fusion of the physical church and online platform is the last bastion for a revival of the Catholic Church – for outreach to new souls, and to maintain and keep the faith alive of the old. It is a time for all Catholics to step forward to become active participants in faith.
Jesus, I trust in You!
God Bless and thank you, for reading.