digital prayer

July 9, 2013

#religion: Re-enchanting ourselves with the Intimate Infinite

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, a collective force sprang into action. This group gathered to express their grief, to share their memories, and to discuss how to best respond to the tragedy. They sorted out who was missing and who had been found among the victims. They organized vigils, raised funds, and coordinated hospital visits to the injured.

Up until about 15 years ago, such a group would have gathered in a church or other religious space to perform all of those functions. The primary gathering node for communal coordination for the past three millennia has been religious spaces. But this particular group did not gather in a church. They gathered online—in many online locations but most prominently under a Twitter hashtag: #prayforboston.

Does our ability to come together online now make obsolete the space religion has traditionally provided for communal gathering?

Said differently, if I can #prayforboston, why would I need to pray for Boston?


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.