May 29, 2013

More on Prayer Memes and Negotiating Spiritual Meaning in Public Spaces

As one national tragedy follows another, the ubiquitous Twitter prayer meme—the most recent in the aftermath of the tornados in Oklahoma (#PrayForOklahoma)—continues to attract attention from media religion-watchers. I spoke this week to CNN Belief Blog co-editor Daniel Burke about the phenomenon as a marker of changing American religiosity:

The social-media sparring over prayer and God’s will reflect a culture in which traditional notions of religion – and the places where people talk about faith – are changing faster than a Twitter feed, said Drescher, the Santa Clara lecturer.

“We’re watching people re-articulate what it means to be spiritual and religious,” she said.

The full story is here.

While not specifically focused on the spiritual practice of prayer, a recent story I wrote for Religion Dispatches on a the response of a village church in Western New York to an act of vandalism highlights the negotiation of religious meaning in public spaces. I suggest that Grace Episcopal Church, Rudolph takes seriously the built church itself as social media, engaging creatively and compassionately with a local tagger, effecting its own “conversion” to new ways of being church:

But the bigger conversion, it seems to me, is of a small church in a world of changing, arguably declining, religiosity recognizing that the main currents of religious and spiritual meaning-making flow outside its doors. It’s the story of a fairly traditional church actively recognizing that religious doubt, religious critique, and all manner of theological questioning that once would have been seen as belonging squarely within the clapboard walls of a village church unfold in a much wider, much more broadly networked universe.

The initial story is available here. It turns out that, “after school special style,” the family of the tagger approached the church to make restitution on behalf of their son. A follow-up piece is in the works.

March 8, 2013

Praying on Twitter

Over at Religion Dispatches, New Directions in the Study of Prayer Grantee Peter Manseau talks about the use of Twitter as a venue for prayer. In particular, he highlights the Catholic fraternal group Knights of Columbus:

Following the pontiff’s request that all Catholics “continue to pray for me, for the Church, and for the future pope,” the Knights naturally asked for prayers. Breaking new ground, however, they proposed that these prayers might not merely be spoken at home, declaimed during mass, or formed in the privacy of one’s thoughts. The prayers for Benedict and his successor should, instead, be put on display in the growing global commons of the Twitterverse. According to their press release, the Knights were “encouraging people to send their prayerful support to Pope Benedict XVI directly by tweeting ‘I am praying for you’ and the hashtag #prayerforthechurch to the pope’s twitter account.” The tweetless were not left out—one could record their pledge to pray for the pope at, or even mail in an actual paper prayer card—but they presumably would not enjoy the Twitter-specific thrill of imagining that @pontifex himself might note their devotion while scrolling through the papal mentions feed. In any case, the names of all those who pledged to recite a daily prayer written by the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, would be brought to the installation mass of the new Bishop of Rome, whomever he may be.

Read the full essay here.