By Rev KT Pun
November 19, 2023
After leaving home, if there is one thing you feel you must go back to fetch if you have left it there, what would that be? I think it would probably be your mobile phone. Just one day without the mobile phone, we will feel that we have nothing to do on public transport or when waiting for people. It is because the Internet that the mobile phone connects to is closely related to our daily life.
During my Sabbatical earlier this year, I came across some information about the development of online faith platforms by contemporary churches. I found that many scholars and pastors have actively joined the discussion. I understand more that digital technology has become an inseparable part of our daily life. Whether we know it or not, the digital world and our everyday life are in fact intertwined, and the two develop in parallel. Scholars Dawson and Cowan say in the introduction to their book Religion Online that the offline and online worlds mirror each other.
In such a parallel relationship, the basis in the physical world is very important. Take a fellowship prayer meeting as an example. Since the members already know one another, the time to pray together can be arranged flexibly. Put online, the prayer meeting can take place in any evening in between two fellowship meetings. In these online gatherings, the fact that participants already know one another allows the interaction (especially when with video) to be as smooth as meeting in person (I believe nobody nowadays calls telephone conversation virtual). By the same token, since participants know each other, the quality of ad hoc meetings moved online as a result of inclement weather or other reasons will not be much different. Therefore, online and in-person meetings can well complement each other. Online meetings can back up in-person meetings and also be used as circumstances require. They can be put to active and creative use to strengthen our ties.
Since the offline and online worlds mirror each other, we can cross over to the other side and come back as often as we need to enrich our faith. It will be like a group of friends who, after exchanges in a restaurant, continue to care and share through WhatsApp. It is clear that brothers and sisters can deepen their relationships through online communication in between in-person meetings. Likewise, pastoral relationship between brothers and sisters and the church can also benefit from online communication. Meanwhile, interaction with the church can be created through the “sermon archive”, “pastor’s sharing” and appropriate responses (such as enrolment and registration) to the news of all kinds of church activities. In fact, digital enrolment and pre-registration is being adopted for this year’s Winter Camp and Deacon’s Election so that brothers and sisters and the church could establish a clear relationship through the digital platform. I recently read a book called Seeking the Kingdom (《移動的聖所》, literally meaning “Mobile Sanctuary”). It is true. Through the online platform, the NPAC family can become our “mobile sanctuary” in the daily lives of brothers and sisters as they come and go.