I've said before that celebrating communion via Twitter (to make "a
statement that we're prepared to embrace the technological revolution") seems
like an especially poor use of technology. But Lisa Nichols Hickman brings up a techno-sacramental innovation
that's at least somewhat more compelling: using Skype to commune with
Christians across the globe, especially in isolated and conflict-torn places.
The Conflict Kitchen is a public art project and
restaurant in Pittsburgh that serves only food from countries with which the
U.S. is in conflict. After visiting the restaurant, Nichols Hickman writes
One of the events [the Conflict Kitchen] highlight[s] is
Skype meal between a group of strangers seated at tables in
Pittsburgh and in Tehran. Sharing the same meal and conversation across
seven time zones, strangers became acquainted with each other over broken
bread. Even more importantly, they shared the same hope for peace.
And so I wondered, and ask the same of you, would it be
blasphemous to Skype communion with Christians in a country across the
globe? Could Christians in Raleigh and Rwanda find encouragement from
each other at the table? . . . .
Blasphemers might argue that Skyping communion is
spectacle over Sacrament: webcams, language barriers and other details are
impediments to the Word heard and act engaged. Technology aside, perhaps the
real argument is the nature of communion within community. Far from being
exotic, maybe it is putting up with the mundane within a known community that
makes real communion. What would be sacrificed via Skype is real
relationship. Technology makes the sacrament sterile and simple to the
point that communion becomes sentimental rather than an act of reconciliation.
But those who argue breakthrough might say that the
Skyped communion is a first step beyond stereotypes and the capacity of nations
to create 'others'. Sitting down at the table, even through a webcam,
creates the possibility for new community where bread is broken across national
lines, language barriers, time zones and war decrees. The other, joined
with bread, becomes brother.
I'm not convinced; I can't get
past the considerable gap between "gathered community" and "electronically
connected people." But this does strike me as far more serious an idea that the
Twitcharist example. The goal is nobler (global bridge-building vs. showing off
the church's tech savvy). As for the medium, it's real-time verbal and visual
communication--even face to face in some
real sense--and so is vulnerable and present in a way following a Twitter feed
In any case, using Skype to break bread with/"with" other
Christians across national conflict lines has powerful possibilities--even if
you have a celebrant at each end, or simply have a meal instead of communion.