Pure desperation sparked my fledgling attempts to use videoconferencing software for meetings and other gatherings. Scattered, over-programmed people just couldn’t find time to drive 1-2 hours to yet another meeting each month. Children’s school plays, band concerts and soccer practices, work travel and family commitments got in the way of church folk gathering for even a simple overnight retreat.
Like most people, I thought that my target participants — youth leaders and Christian educators — would be more hesitant to share
their personal experiences in the online platform. I even thought it was possible that the whole thing would crash, sparks flying from our plastic keyboards. Despite this fear, I took a breath and employed the first rule of improvisational theater — Say, “Yes, and …”
Luckily a few other brave souls said “Yes, and” and gathered in these online communities. Voices crackled and echoed and muted. Video screens went blank. People clicked buttons that caused their delicate connection to drop. But, with a little time and some new equipment, the connections got better. And, I just don’t mean the computers and wireless internet. I noticed that the videoconferenced groups engaged in deeper conversations more quickly than did the in-person groups that I convened.
I pondered this reality for weeks. Why? Why did it seem that the videoconferenced groups connected more easily than in person groups? Why did the sharing go so deep, so quickly?
My answer: yoga pants. You see, people who come together for a meeting at a church or an office wouldn’t be wearing the stretchy, comfy goodness of yoga pants. They wouldn’t rest into the familiarity of their favorite chair. They couldn’t have that delightfully chipped coffee mug filled with steaming hot water made in the sputtering tea pot on their own stove. They wouldn’t have their dog or cat curled around their feet. They wouldn’t be wearing their lovingly distressed slippers or covered by their grandmother’s crocheted lap blanket.
Time after time I witnessed the bonds among people who had never met in person blossom and grow. When I facilitated online worship, people weren’t coming for the “show” of worship — they were looking for an experience that connected them to other participants and to God. When I posted a blog, inviting discussion about serious, spiritual topics, the conversation flowed. Both friends I know from inside the church and those who wouldn’t think of walking through the doors of an “institutional” church came together from places all over the country and the world and shared. That’s just the power of the yoga pants.
I’m thrilled that I get the honor of further exploring this new ministry frontier as the Minister for Digital Programs for Extravagance UCC, a virtual faith community of the United Church of Christ. Along with the wonderful leadership team of Rev. Jo Hudson and Ms. Kimberly Knight, I will be reaching out online to those who are isolated, those who are unable to “go to church,” those who are simply seeking a connection of faith, those who want to add to their current faith experience or have a new one.
I invite you to say, “Yes, and …” to this digital frontier with me. In your yoga pants. I’ll be wearing mine.