Feeling Connected in a Digital World

I have engaged in two new practices in the last several weeks with my family members. One of them is a fantasy football league with my grandchildren and some of their cousins, their dads, and one of their other grandmas. The other is geocaching, which is “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game.” Both of them have changed the way I engage in activities I have participated in for many years.
I have been to a lot of football games and watched quite a few on television, although not many professional football games. I am not sure I have ever watched a professional game from beginning to end except sometimes the Super Bowl. But I was in marching band in high school and both of my daughters started cheerleading in junior high. That meant that I “rode the bench” at football games (and basketball games for that matter) for 10 straight years watching them come heat, sleet, rain, snow, and everything in between. I even coached one of my daughter’s cheerleading teams when she was in junior high since there was not a team at her school. I am not a stranger to football games.
Geocaching is done outside and our family does it while we are on hikes. We have always hiked a lot in the parks near our house and during the pandemic have found some new ones. Usually, my role on a hike is to say “watch out that is stinging nettle” or “be careful, that is poison ivy” and to be told that I am walking too fast. I am no stranger to walking with purpose through the great outdoors, even if that purpose is just to be sure that I get my steps for the day and to entertain grandchildren away from electronics.

But the fantasy football participation and the geocaching have changed the way I engage in both of these activities. I watched a whole professional football game from beginning to end last Sunday. I cheered for players on both teams since they were each on my fantasy team. When the weekend was over, I could celebrate beating my grandchildren’s ten-year-old cousin whom I have only met a few times! We also went on a hike with family and looked for geocaches that were along the paths in the park where we were. It gave us goals that we had not had before when walking along those same paths. Both activities make me feel more connected to the game or the hike and have increased my enjoyment of activities in which I have engaged habitually for a long time. These activities are new to me; they add goals to activities for which I did not have personal goals attached in the same way as before.

I have been wondering how we could add this sense of feeling more connected to our zoom meetings for church and work and to our worship and Bible studies together. I know that some people are planting “Easter eggs” on the bookshelves or other household items behind them when they are onscreen. (That’s another new term for me, “a message, image, or feature hidden in a video game, film, or other electronic medium.”) It is kind of like product placement in a movie but without the mercenary intent. What are the “Easter eggs” that you could use in your worship or meeting to enhance and deepen the experience? Could you ask worshipers to watch for certain items that are connected to the message so that they feel more connected to worship even when you are not in person? What other ways have you thought about to help people to engage meaningfully and creatively by feeling that they are participating in worship or study or a meeting in a new way?

The medium for our interactions has changed so much and the novelty of feeling like the Jetsons may be wearing off (I will let you look up the Jetsons on your own.) It is still incumbent on us as leaders to find ways to invite people into the mystery and joy of the work we do together and the worship of God so that we can be reminded of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago