My name is Matt O’Rear, and I serve as Chief Marketing Officer here at Learning Forte. Our video blog today is about living stones. I want to share a journey I just returned from last week with you. It was a trip planned and cancelled multiple times. We know what the previous two years have been like. I found out on a Monday afternoon that the coming Friday, I will be on an airplane to Tel Aviv to make my pilgrimage to the Holy Land that I’ve been longing for throughout this pandemic. Two things strike me along this journey. First, the Ministry of Health for Israel has been abundantly cautious during this pandemic. They closed the borders, protected their citizens, but only recently have they reopened the borders for travelers and pilgrims alike to come back and journey to the sacred sites so dear to three of the world’s religions. I was struck at the emptiness as pilgrims were just starting to return. Pulling into places that typically have spots for 80 tour buses, it was just our little van with our little group.
I got to wander the sights; I got to see Scripture come alive. I got to dip my hand in the Sea of Galilee, touch the Jordan River, walk along the way of the cross, and enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a church usually packed with thousands of people. I kept taking pictures of sites, ruins, and archaeological finds and asked myself, are these living stones or relics of the past?
The same can be asked of us currently. For us who have embraced hybrid technology in worship, in formation, and other aspects of ministry, has what we did become a relic? Where is the living stone? Is it the people gathered on your Zoom boxes? Is it the people engaging creative content in digital teaching? Or is it longing to be back to how we had done it?
It was on a Sunday morning as I wandered around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which I’ll never be able to do with such ease again. As the morning mass was happening from the Greek Orthodox, I found a small vantage point that I could look down to see the ambo, the raised reading platform. Hearing the chants, smelling the incense, feeling the sacredness of this place, I noticed the Priest and Deacons standing at the ambo, while chanting, were chanting from a tablet, a smartphone. It made me smile to think in this holy of holy places, in this church that grounds the theology of the resurrection, in the place where ancient is valued, here technology was being used to speak prayers and chants and make the Sepulchre a living stone.
How have you embraced technology during this pandemic? What have you decided to keep and incorporate into your ministry? What will you choose are the relics of the past? And where will you invest in the living stones now and in the future? I pray that you can find your own pilgrimage during the season. I pray that you’re able to see that living stones do exist. And the work that we have diligently done with hybrid ministry matters. For we’re not relics, we are living stones. And together, we’re embracing hybrid ministry with confidence.