The question below speaks to a dilemma that crops up frequently in religious life, namely, whether your faith experience needs to be normative for me.

When we have a powerful faith experience, we tend to share it with others and want the same thing for them. People coming home from Cursillo weekends often had that experience. The weekend had been so powerful for them, they couldn’t imagine others not wanting it and benefiting from it.

I feel that way right now about Gospel music. Surely everyone could enjoy it as much as I do.

But that isn’t the way God works. Not only does God give us different gifts for ministry, but God gives us different ways of praying, singing, worshiping, meditating, talking about faith, experiencing faith. No one’s experiences or preferences are normative for anyone else.

Frisbee on the Great Lawn, Central Park, NYC

FAITH Q & A: Face-to-Face vs. Virtual

Q: My faith community is such an important part of my life. In our technological world more and more people are “connecting” electronically. What worries me is that the human connection, face to face and touch to touch, will become less important in people’s lives. I am not sure we can be healthy and fulfilled in a virtual vs a flesh and blood community. Your thoughts?

A: I think people will connect in ways that work for them, and different people will connect in different ways. When a way stops working, they will try something else.

In-person has worked well for many, but it stopped working for others, because they found church life dull, conflictual, too passive, or too shallow. That latter group is trying other ways to connect: occasionally coming to familiar in-person venues, trying new in-person venues, seeking out small groups, doing more online, seeking God in solitude.

Meanwhile, a younger cadre comes along that doesn’t have an experience of in-person faith community. If that’s all they are offered, they’ll look elsewhere. The fact that in-person matters to you has no bearing on their decision.

As I wrote in a newsletter this morning, we need to be seeing all options – and doing all options. We can’t do just the one thing that has worked well for one cadre. After all, when Jesus began his ministry, religious life took place in synagogue and temple, and anything else was foreign. He went to seaside, hillside and homes.