Monday, July 5, 2021

A Church's Online Journey


In the Eyes of the Believer Column of the Catholic Times, a director of a religious research center gives the reader the results of her journey online.

Recently, she has been busy conducting various online religious educational programs and meetings. After the pandemic, many have suggested using online as an alternative to most of the church's face-to-face religious education and gatherings. This possibility is being studied, planned, and conducted with programs prepared elsewhere.


Since the pandemic, many academic presentations and meetings have been converted to online, and more and more parishes have experienced Legion of Mary meetings and Bible studies online. Some religious communities and organizations run YouTube channels and tried online lectures, prayer meetings, and recently the institute conducted online confirmation training for the first time in a six-week program for a parish.


Korea is an Internet powerhouse, believers of all ages from teenagers to those in their 70s watch online lecture videos, solve quizzes, and submitted assignments without any difficulty. When she saw the assignments submitted by the students, participation was serious and most of the evaluation reports were positive. The participants were comfortable and were able to review the things they didn't understand by returning to the topic online. The disappointment of not being face-to-face can be remedied by meeting once or twice during the online programs. 


Personally, she has lead a reading group organized by a religious community and also participated in an ecumenical reading group invited by an acquaintance. The great advantage of such small groups is they can meet and share with a variety of people beyond physical distance. As many people's faces and facial expressions are shown on one screen, they can concentrate more and listen to people's stories without thinking about anything else for a while. Listening to someone deeply and sharing their lives, thoughts, and beliefs, makes one feel very close, like a friend known for a long time.

Online seminars and classes held at the institute are also conducted in this small group manner, with short presentations and long sharing. In the past the instructor's presentation was long and the question session was short but online, the sharing time with the participants is longer. Perhaps because the people who find, and apply to participate in topics of interest, find it difficult to speak at first, but they soon listen to each other's stories by sharing their thoughts and opinions without hesitation.

Above all, the best thing about online education and gatherings is a horizontal conversation and sharing are possible. Recently, priests, religious, and laypeople, participated in the online lecture held by the institute, and it was a new experience: priests, religious, and believers talking comfortably about a topic as friends who all studied together, and not in a parish setting where often the laity are listening passively to an admonition. Sometimes the director is faced with hearing ideas foreign to her way of thinking but it was a lot of fun meeting with believers who tried to empathize by listening to each other without trying to judge or persuade the other.

In the fall of this year, we will have the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The theme for the journey: "For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission," This path toward the celebration of the Synod comprises three phases, between October 2021 and October 2023 and finally a conclusive phase at the level of the Universal Church. 


 Every time the director of the institute talks about the Church Together, the priests say that the believers are not interested in the church and do not feel a need to participate. Many of the believers on the other hand often say that the priests do not listen to the believers. Our church is not used to having horizontal relationships among its members, and I hope that the online method can be a useful tool for creating new possibilities in learning as "joint agreement" a journey together.

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