Last Sunday felt like Community Day.
Communities. We all belong to lots of them. Groups of people with common interests, similar goals, shared beliefs or even just a comparable post codes. A shared history or struggle. Sporting clubs, choirs. Traditional communities involve a lot of face-to-face contact.
Blogging’s a funny business. It’s relational, despite the fact that many of the corresponders (posters and commenters) are held apart by networks of electrons.
The growth of social networking has brought a wider awareness of a phenomenon that has been there in the background for twenty years through dial up bulletin boards, MUDs and forums.
Online communities are different from traditional physical groupings in that their members are often to be found typing away in the glow of their monitors. Yet the feeling of relationship and community is still there.
- Facebookers track both people that they know (or once knew) in real life, as well as contacts that they’ve only ever “met” online.
- Following interesting strangers is even easier on Twitter.
- Bloggers read and comment in each others blogs, sometimes conducting email side conversations in which they’re a bit more open about their lives and beliefs.
- Status watching on Facebook or Twitter allows you to get a view of other people’s movements and motivations as they go about their daily grind.
And yet the feelings of community become so much stronger when the virtual participation gives rise to a real meeting, when the geeks come out from hiding behind their keyboards and face each other in daylight!
You can talk and listen a lot more in ten minutes physically standing 30 centimetres away from someone that you can 30 milliseconds away at the other end of the internet.
Like that other great religious movement of Manchester United supporters, Christians (are meant to) have something in common before they meet. Hopefully, an even stronger interest and belief than football! There’s a shared understanding, a common heritage that stretches through time to the cross, back to Bethlehem, and on back to Abraham and beyond. (In fact, it’s a heritage tree that most of the world’s religions can trace back into - as we were reminded that Sunday evening.)
Sunday morning was a moment when two communities collided. A blogger meet-up in church! (Three of us in the same pew! And the lightning bolts didn’t come crashing down through Fitzroy’s roof to scorch us.)
It was so good to put a face to a name, to share food, faith, time and conversation with a new friend. To be community. And to do what communities do. To talk about our journeys up to that point, to relax and be a lot more open than any ever is on their blog, to share and to connect. To discover the joys of Farmer Jason (who's now getting a lot of air play in our house.)
Making friends online is good. But it’s hard to beat real life!