-Rev Melissa Fain-
The online image is the new stained glass window.
Last week I suggested a Twitter hashtag and retweet was the online version of a team t-shirt. Add the post two weeks about Facebook, and you begin to see the pieces of church begin to come together. Neither of these pieces are church, and today alone will not make a church. Using any of these pieces in the correct way, will bring you closer to entering the online world as a church.
The Online Image: The Land of Online Authority
This is where I go an a tangent to get to a broader point. I promise if you follow along, you will not be left wanting.
This morning, as I was writing, my mind was transported to the fellowship hall of my childhood church. Multiple events burst through that memory. First it's an after church gathering. Little carefully crafted cheese tarts sits next to a haphazard container of Fig Newtons, simply opened and placed on the table. Then it's a celebration of the winner of a talent show. Shiny costumes and little bags of wrapped chocolate coins. Then it's a craft fair. A tissue box made of yarn and plastic embroidery sheets. Then finally, empty. Well kinda. There's always a three wheeler hidden behind the divider to split the room into two.
What brought this thought into my head when I haven't been in that specific room or church in over a decade? It was a smell, specifically the smell of rose water and coffee. The smell hit me, and I began immediately deconstructing it's pieces to bring them back together at any time. It was like finding an old friend, and inviting them back into my life. I found the magic that allows me transport back in time. Now images, smells, and feelings are enveloping me.
Notice I didn't say words.
Yet- ministers, we seem to think that words are enough. If we just write that amazing post, or share the manuscript to that unbelievable sermon, we will... what will we do? We are not reaching out to an online audience with just words. I've watched it time and time again on Reddit. Ministers drop their sermon in /r/Christianity like that's going to be enough. Time and time again I see the brutal response TLDR (too long, didn't read.)
God is more than words.
God is in the position of the candles on a Sunday morning. God is in who you have lighting those candles. God is in the people sitting in the pews. God is the light cutting through that window at 10:30, catching those tiny pieces of dust slowly floating in the air. God is that first person who steps into the sanctuary and chooses to see that light or not. God is in the recesses and edges. God is tone and inflection. Only words is just the crust of the experience. You can taste the filling, but that's all.
Fig Tree: A Drop in Bucket
When the images you create are hyper condensed sermons it's tremendously important to get them right. I dare say, the images are often more important than the words.
Fig Tree has a Pinterest page, and I personally share on Imgur. On Pinterest, most of the images I created for Fig Tree is tagged to a meditation. I don't expect most people to go beyond the image. Like a congregant from the Middle Ages would find their God in the light cutting through the colorful glass images, people today find meaning in the sifting of daily pictures.
These images hold power. Innocent and terrible lies are easily shared with colorful backgrounds. Golden tongued soundbites can be destroyed with poor creative forces giving vision to word.
There were images I believed myself until I took two seconds to research them. It's dangerous. Our responsibility rests in being an institution that responsibility to share truth in all things, including the images.