Alex Clare-Young asks why many people feel more welcome at online church
Psalm 18 says that God ‘brought me out into a spacious place; God rescued me because God delighted in me’. Online church is, for many, a spacious place. There are many different forms of online church, and social media is providing new, spacious and inclusive ways to be church. Churspacious is a social media church with close to 500 members, all of whom are an active part of our church life. Some people express concern regarding online church. While their worries are understandable, they are based on a specific type of online church, and do not match my experience, nor the experiences of Churspacious members.
I would like to explore two common misconceptions about online churches – churches that have been created, and are curated, specifically for the online environment. One misconception is that online church is not embodied. Online church can be embodied, perhaps even more so than traditional church. We do not suddenly cease to have bodies when we sit behind a computer screen or pick up our mobile phones. If anything, many of us can be more authentically embodied at home then we can in church.
Those of us who are chronically ill or disabled can access church in relative comfort. Those of us who are neurodiverse can access church in sensory spaces that provide fulfilment, rather than limitation. We can communicate in the ways that suit us best, using our keyboards and our creativity as well as our, at times faltering, voices. Those of us who are trans can dress how we like and be assured that we are accessing church in a safe space where our pronouns and names will be used correctly, and our bodies will not be interrogated. Those who are tired after busy days or long shifts can access church in their pyjamas during those few, precious moments on the sofa…
Alex Clare-Young is a postdoctoral student and Minister of Churspacious, a hybrid social media-based church. For more information, visit www.churspacious.com
This is an extract from an article published in the February 2021 edition of Reform