Dear Members and Friends:
Thank you to everyone who made Holy Week a special time of inspiration and communion with each other. It is clear to me that we have a talented congregation that has much to offer to enrich our worship experience. And this is not to mention the joyful Easter vigil hosted by Sweet Hollow Presbyterian Church on Saturday evening. For the past two years we have benefited from the musical and liturgical gifts of our friends and neighbors in many Long Island congregations who come together for this special event. It is a joyful experience to discover our fellowship in Christ extends to so many fine people all over the area.
The life of faith is intimately related to the means of communication that are available to us. When Jesus lived, communication was so much slower than it is now, that it is hard for us to imagine how the Gospel spread from town to town. Jesus did a lot of walking, and speaking to crowds, and preaching in synagogues. After his death and resurrection and ascension to heaven, his disciples followed in his footsteps, walking out of Jerusalem and Galilee, travelling the roads to neighboring countries, boarding sailing vessels to reach all corners of the known world. When they reached a new town or city, they would begin preaching in the town square and in the synagogues, if such existed there. The missionaries, most notably Paul, then began to write letters to churches they had organized. These letters probably traveled in the luggage of trusted members of the Christian community. One can imagine that it would take at least several weeks for a letter to travel from Jerusalem to Ephesus or Rome. Given these realities of communications, it took about four centuries for Christianity to become the dominant religion of the Empire.
Fast forward to the Protestant Reformation, almost exactly 500 years ago, and 1,500 years after the life of Christ. The news of the Reformed faith was transmitted much more quickly than would have been possible in the ancient world through a new system of information sharing based on the printing press. It took less than one century for Luther and Calvin’s form of Christianity to take root in every corner of western civilization. Of course, it did not become the dominant faith in many areas which remained in the grip of Catholicism, but the genie was out of the bottle in terms of the spread of information throughout the populace. More and more people learned to read, and out of the rich soil of literate Protestant populations sprang the modern realities of representative democracy and an informed and self-determining laity and citizenry.
Today, we can look back on the last 100 years in which communications technology has increased the speed and the reach of information sharing at a breathtaking pace. And now, it seems as though every year brings a new form of communication into our hands. We have broken loose from centralized systems such as radio and TV networks. Everybody has a chance to be a media phenomenon. Reputations can be made or destroyed overnight. National leaders can put their messages directly into our in-boxes without the media filter we are used to. In turn, in a matter of seconds, we the people can flood them with thousands or millions of individual messages on any given topic.
So far as communicating the Gospel is concerned, media technology is neutral. The Good News can travel by word of mouth, by the printed word on paper, by preaching to an assembled audience, but it can also travel by e-mail, Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter. Our worship is currently conducted using the printed word on paper, the spoken word using electronic microphones and speakers, and music using electronic instruments and our assembled voices. We also use our bodies a little bit by shaking hands or embracing when we “pass the peace.”
As we build our new congregation, we have an important opportunity to experiment with all the new forms of communication that are available. Money is, of course, an important limiting factor for us. Yet, we will be doing the best we can with what we have. As we proceed with these efforts, that started some time ago with the creation of web sites for the two congregations and Facebook pages, along with limited use of visual aids in worship, I hope you will find your experience of the Christian life being expanded in a positive direction. Be sure to let me and the session know what you think about various innovations.
Three things that will be unfolding in coming months:
1) Elder Scott Newsam is guiding us into the world of “Google for nonprofits” which promises to be a great platform for communication and work sharing within our fellowship. 2) It seems likely that we will be purchasing the digital version of the new PCUSA hymnal, Glory to God. Using projectors and screens, we will be able to enhance our music in worship with hundreds of new hymns and songs, many of which have been written in the past two decades. 3) We will be using projected images in worship on a regular basis. Getting the set up to work well may take some time and effort.