Voice of the Vestry: Analog Church

Vinyl records are making a comeback. Musicians from all genres are offering them, and fans are buying. Paper notebooks from companies like Moleskine and Detroit-based Shinola have been hot for more than a decade now. In our so-called paperless society, paper is popular again. There has been steady growth in indie bookstores—the brick-and-mortar variety—and recent studies show new stores being opened and entrepreneurship becoming more creative.

So, what are we to make of this renaissance of physical things—analog products and services that were supposed to dissipate into the ether with the advent of digital media? In The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, David Sax argues that there is an important societal counternarrative being written. Our honeymoon with certain digital technologies is ending and we now realize their true value and where they fall short. Sax says: “Surrounded by digital, we now crave experiences that are more tactile and human-centric. We want to interact with goods and services with all our senses, and many of us are willing to pay a premium to do so.”

I find some truth in Sax’s observations. There is something rich and wonderful in the experience of real things. The ochre and chestnut brown leather cover on a handmade journal. The gatefold French flaps and deckled edges of a beautifully bound book. The smell of newly manufactured cardboard and vinyl, and the joy of placing the record on my turntable for its debut spin.

Let me be clear, I am no Luddite (and neither is Sax). I believe in the value of digital advances in our world. But it’s not an either-or solution. We need digital innovations and their productivity, but we also need physical, in-real-life reminders of our flesh-bound experiences. “Reality,” Sax says, “is multicolored, infinitely textured, and emotionally layered. It . . . revels in human imperfection.” We need these real reminders that strike a chord within us as God’s creation.

Today is Social Media Sunday, a reminder to share and engage in conversations of faith via social media. I highly encourage you to find and celebrate community through these avenues. But I also want us to think about our life here at Grace. How do we provide experiences that provide an analog respite for people living in a digital world? Do we have a counternarrative?

The next time you’re in church, pause and look and listen. You will find signs and symbols—analog gifts to us, and to anyone entering this space. Water, flowing down and making all things new. Wine and bread. Anointing oil. Stained glass illuminated by sunlight. Crosses, some held and some made. Kneeling. Gestures of peace and love. Familiar chords and harmonies. Prayers spoken and read. Coffee shared. Conversations affirmed. Food served. And so many more.

Our gracious God has given us these physical manifestations of our life of faith as Grace Church, as Episcopalians, as followers of Jesus, as beloved children of God. Hold on to them and give thanks. Then tell someone else about what you’ve found and experienced. That’s good news.

“Our ears have heard,

    our own eyes have seen,

and our hands touched

    this Word.”  —1 John 1:1a, CEV(Contemporary English Version)


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